PRESS RELEASE: Priti Patel plans a pre-Christmas mass deportation flight to Jamaica on 2nd December, as new ComRes poll finds majority oppose UK’s deportation laws

Detention Action Press Release
Tuesday 24 November 2020
For immediate release

Priti Patel plans a pre-Christmas mass deportation flight to Jamaica on 2nd December, as new ComRes poll finds majority oppose UK’s deportation laws

Detention Action understands that the Home Office is planning a mass deportation charter flight to Jamaica for 2nd December.

At least 16 men have been detained at Colnbrook and Brook House immigration detention centres and several have been issued with Removal Directions for the 2nd December. Those detained include people who have been in the UK since early childhood and have British children. Many of the men have partners who are key workers and have been on the frontline of the COVID pandemic.

If it goes ahead, the flight will be the second charter to Jamaica of the year, and the third since the Windrush Scandal broke in 2017. It comes amid fresh internal complaints of systemic racism within the Home Office following the resignation of Alexandra Ankrah, the most senior Black member of the Windrush compensation on grounds it is ‘unfit for purpose’, and while thousands of Windrush cases and compensation claims remain unresolved.

Lawyers and campaigners are warning that there is a real risk of unlawful removals, including of Windrush descendents and those who face real risks of harm or even death if removed. Between March 2018 – May 2019, at least five men deported from the UK to Jamaica were killed.

According to a newly published poll carried out by ComRes[1] earlier this year, the majority of British people disagree with the automatic nature of the UK’s deportation laws. The UK’s controversial deportation laws currently make it mandatory for the Home Office to seek the deportation of non-British citizens who receive a custodial sentence in the UK of 12 months or more, with no discretion to take other factors into account.

However the majority of the public believe that factors such as whether a person came to the UK as a child or whether they have British children should be taken into account before deportation decisions are made.

The poll found that:

  • Nearly eight in 10 (77%) agreed that those who came to the UK as children should not be subject to automatic deportation
  • Support for current laws was low, with:
  • Only 10% of the public agreeing with automatic deportation for those born in the UK
  • Only 11% agreeing with automatic deportation for those who came to the UK as children
  • Only 13% agreeing with automatic deportation for those who have a genuine and subsisting relationship with a British resident child

Bella Sankey, Director of Detention Action said: “Priti Patel is playing with fire to order a mass deportation of Black British residents to Jamaica while the Windrush scandal remains unresolved. This flight is not safe and many of the forced removals risk being unlawful, just like last time around. No wonder the British public are overwhelmingly opposed to our inhumane deportation laws – how can it be right for tens of British children to lose their loving fathers in the run up to Christmas”

The poll findings support, as yet unimplemented, recommendations to Government made in 2018 by Steven Shaw, the former Prisons and Probation Ombudsman. In his 2018 review of the UK’s Immigration Detention system, Shaw recommended that “The Home Office should no longer routinely seek to remove those who were born in the UK or have been brought up here from an early age.”

In February of this year, the Government carried out a highly controversial deportation of 17 British residents to Jamaica. Following legal action from human rights charity Detention Action, the majority of the planned 50 deportations were stopped by a Court of Appeal injunction due to serious access to justice violations in detention centres.

At least four people who were detained and slated for deportation in February but taken off the flight at the eleventh hour have since been referred into the National Referral Mechanism (NRM), the Government’s system for identifying and protecting victims of human trafficking, and received positive decisions on their claims.

Those deported in February included British residents who came to the UK as children or had lived in the UK for much of their lives. One man who was deported was the grandson of a woman who came to the UK on the HMT Empire Windrush. The deportation separated at least 27 British children from a parent.


For media enquiries please contact:

Matthew Leidecker, Campaigns Manager

Spokespeople are available for broadcast interview.

Notes to editors:

[1] Savanta ComRes interviewed 2,044 GB adults aged 18+ online from 17 th – 18th June 2020. Data were weighted by key demographics including age, sex, region and SEG. Detailed results available on request.

Detention Action is a national charity established in 1993 that seeks to defend the rights and improve the welfare of people in immigration detention by combining support for individuals with campaigning for policy change. Detention Action works in Harmondsworth and Colnbrook IRCs near Heathrow Airport in London, Morton Hall IRC in Lincolnshire, and with people held under immigration powers in London prisons. We work with around 1000 individuals held in detention each year.