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Widely condemned charter flight to Jamaica to go ahead, despite claims that deportee tested positive for C-19

THE Home Office is pushing ahead with a widely condemned charter flight to Jamaica on Wednesday, despite claims that one deportee has tested positive for Covid-19. 

Campaigners fear that there may be more cases of the virus at Colnbrook detention centre, near Heathrow, after a man tested positive on Sunday. It’s understood that he had previously been held in a shared dorm but has since been moved into isolation. 

The detainee is one of dozens of men booked on the flight whose deportations have been triggered by past criminal convictions. 

Many have lived in Britain since childhood and campaigners argue that removing people who have already served their sentences amounts to “double punishment.” 

Several MPs have joined calls to halt the imminent flight, including former shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, who has branded the deportations “cruel, arbitrary and expensive.” 

Karen Doyle of campaign group Movement for Justice said the detainee who has tested positive is still booked on tomorrow’s flight. 

She said that he had been tested after feeling unwell on Sunday, having previously tested negative after arriving to Colnbrook. “He went to get a test, called me about half an hour later in tears and said: ‘Karen I’ve tested positive, am I going to die?’ 

“Experts have said time and time again that detention centres are breeding grounds for Covid and he was even put in a shared cell,” she continued.

“The Covid protections in the detention centre are basically zero, so while he’s the only Covid case we know of, there are absolutely going to be others.”

Last year, the Home Office released hundreds of detainees amid warnings that detention centres provide ideal incubation conditions for the rapid spread of coronavirus. 

However, the department has since been refilling removal centres in preparation for a series of charter flights, despite the ongoing risk of infection. 

Several people were taken off a recent charter flight to Zimbabwe at the last minute after a Covid-19 outbreak was confirmed at Brook House, near Gatwick airport. 

Another detainee held at Colnbrook told the Morning Star that he is worried about contracting Covid after coming into contact with the man who tested positive. Two blocks have been put into lockdown, he said. 

Ms Doyle added that there were vulnerable people booked on the flight, including some with asthma and another with a hole in his heart. 

Campaigners have expressed concerns that the Home Office could deport people with Covid on the plane, potentially putting other returnees and staff at risk. 

Black Activists Rising Against Cuts (Barac) national chairwoman Zita Holbourne, who is among those campaigning to halt tomorrow’s flight, told the Star: “To fly someone who is ill and could get into difficulty in the air with no access to hospital or medical professionals is a breach of human rights. 

“Given this is Covid, it is even worse, as it could spread within the confines of an aircraft on a long-haul flight to other passengers, escorts – which people are usually cuffed to – and the crew and pilots, putting everyone in danger.”

A Home Office spokesperson said that there is no coronavirus outbreak at Colnbrook, but two people had tested positive and are currently isolated.

They added that any scheduled removal of a detainee within the necessary isolation period after testing positive, will not proceed.

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