PRESS RELEASE: Detention Action granted permission to intervene in landmark legal challenge brought by two children to halt deportation of parents to Jamaica tomorrow

Detention Action Press Release
Tuesday 1 December 2020
For immediate release

Detention Action granted permission to intervene in landmark legal challenge brought by two children to halt deportation of parents to Jamaica tomorrow

Two children, known as JE and KE, have today brought urgent legal action against the Government, challenging its decision to deport their father to Jamaica on a charter flight scheduled for tomorrow (2 December 2020). The challenge argues that current deportation practice and policy is unlawful as the Home Office has failed in its statutory duty to properly assess and take into account the best interests of children whose parents it seeks to deport.

The children’s challenge sought an injunction relating to tomorrow’s flight prohibiting their father’s removal and the removal of any parent where the interests of the child have not been properly assessed and taken into account.

Human rights charity Detention Action, instructing Reed Smith LLP, has been granted permission by the Court to intervene in the case due to its extensive work with people facing deportation and their families. Detention Action is in touch with many of the people scheduled for deportation tomorrow, all of whom have at least one child. Detention Action estimates that if 28 people are deported on tomorrow’s flight, approximately 100 children will be forcibly separated from a parent.

The Government does not publish data on how many children in the UK have had a parent deported each year and it is unknown whether the Home Office collects this information.

Today’s challenge concerns the Home Office’s legal duty to assess the impact of a parent’s deportation on their children, and to properly take into account what is in the best interests of the child during decision-making. The duty on the Home Office to do so is set out in Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 Act, and has recently been recognised by the Court of Appeal.[1]

JE and KE argue that assessments have not been carried out in relation to tomorrow’s flight. In their challenge they also argue that, despite its statutory obligation, the Home Office currently has no mechanism for the children of those the Home Office is seeking to deport to be adequately or independently assessed or for them to be engaged in the decision making process.

In evidence submitted as part of the case, Detention Action has outlined the reported consequences of a parent’s deportation on children, which includes, bed-wetting, hitting their head against the bedroom wall, becoming reclusive and not leaving the bedroom, becoming fearful of leaving the house, negative behavioural changes, aggression, low mood, crying, suicidal ideation, expressions of anxiety.

The Families for Justice Group has also submitted evidence of the traumatic and life-changing consequences of forced parental removal

Director of Detention Action, Bella Sankey said: “The Government’s mass deportation flight to Jamaica risks forcibly separating 100 children from their parent for at least ten years and most likely forever. We have collected evidence which demonstrates that the Home Secretary has failed to take account of these children’s best interests as she’s required to do by law. This risks a gross injustice with irreversible consequences and so we are looking to the Courts to protect the rights of innocent children from the Government overreach”.  

Michael Skrein, Reed Smith’s EMEA Pro Bono Partner, comments: “We are pleased to be providing pro bono legal support to Detention Action in this legal challenge. This is an important case about the protection of the rights of children”.

The legal action comes the day before the Home Office’s planned pre-Christmas mass deportation to Jamaica on 2nd December.

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.

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] “There is no substitute for a careful examination of all relevant factors when the interests of a child are involved in an Article 8 assessment…a child will not usually be in a position to urge his or her point of view and the decision-maker cannot treat the child as if he or she had some burden of proof” (HA (Iraq) v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2020] EWCA Civ 1176 per Peter Jackson LJ at paras. 153-155, endorsing Zoumbas v Secretary of State for the Home Department [2013] UKSC 74).

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.