PRESS RELEASE: Black and Asian stars, campaigners and public figures call on airlines to cancel Priti Patel’s pre-Christmas mass deportation to Jamaica

Detention Action Press Release
Friday 27 November 2020
For immediate release

Black and Asian stars, campaigners and public figures call on airlines to cancel Priti Patel’s pre-Christmas mass deportation to Jamaica

Over ninety high profile individuals, including Natalie Barnes, daughter of the late Windrush campaigner Paulette Wilson, supermodel Naomi Campbell and actor Thandie Newton OBE, have spoken out to oppose a pre-christmas mass deportation of Black British residents to Jamaica planned by the Home Office for 2nd January.

In an urgent open letter to airlines involved with recent UK deportations, including travel giant TUI, the group urges the company operating the planned flight on the 2nd December to decline to do so and to make a public statement to that effect.
The letter is attached and available here.
Signatories include the author Bernardine Evaristo, model Naomi Campbell, historian David Olusoga and actors Naomie Harris and Thandie Newton, as well as lawyers, broadcasters and NGO chiefs. Leading Windrush campaigners including Michael Braithwaite and Elwaldo Romeo have also signed.
The letter highlights the risk of “unlawful and wrongful removal of people who have the right to remain in the UK” in the wake of a still unresolved Windrush scandal. The letter also draws a link between the planned flight and the conclusions this week from the Equality and Human Rights Commission that the Government’s hostile environment policies breach equality laws and discriminate against Black people.

In June 2018, Virgin Airlines announced that it would end its involvement with deportations from the UK, stating that the move was “in the best interest of our customers and people, and in keeping with our values”.

The letter also references recent revelations that Alexandra Ankrah, the most senior Black civil servant working on the Home Office’s Windrush compensation scheme has resigned, describing the scheme as systemically racist and unfit for purpose.

The letter has been sent to Andrew Flintham, Managing Director of TUI UK and Ireland, Antonio Mota, CEO of Evelop Airlines (the airline that operated the highly controversial deportation charter to Jamaica in February 2020), Gene Willson, Managing Director of Titan Airways, Kurt Ekert, President and CEO of Carlson Wagonlit Travel, Paulo Mirpuri, CEO of Hi Fly, and Phill Blundell, CEO of Air Tanker.

The letter follows confirmation that the Home Office is planning a pre-Christmas mass deportation to Jamaica on 2nd December. The Home Office says it is planning to deport up to 50 people on the flight, including many who have lived in the UK since childhood and those with British children.

The letter echoes warnings from lawyers and campaigners about the risk of dangerous 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.

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:
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.