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A NUMBER of Jamaican nationals who have lived in Britain since childhood have been detained and are expected to be deported in the coming weeks, the Morning Star has learnt.
The move appears to reverse a previous deal between the Home Office and Jamaican authorities not to remove nationals who arrived in Britain under the age of 12.
The Jamaican High Commission confirmed to the Morning Star that the deal was specific to a charter flight in December 2020, the last round of deportations to Jamaica.
Campaigners said the high commission’s decision to back down from the previous agreement was disgraceful, and that the justification for implementing an age limit still remained.
The Star interviewed two detainees who have lived in Britain since the ages of 10 and 11 respectively, both of whom have young families in the country.
While no date had been set for deportations, campaigners feared that a new charter flight was imminent and identified at least 13 Jamaican nationals who were at risk of deportation, having been detained in the last week.
M McDonald, 29, has lived in Britain since the age of 11. He lives with his wife of 10 years and their five children, including a two-month-old baby, and has another two children with a previous partner.
Speaking from Colnbrook detention centre near Heathrow, he told the Star: “I’m 30 this month, so I would be 20 years in this country.
“On paper I’m Jamaican, but if anyone asks me, I’m British, you know what I mean. This is my home, this is where I live, this is where I went to school, this is where I studied, this is where I learnt to drive, everything.”
Mr McDonald’s ordeal with the Home Office started in 2017 after he was charged and convicted of intent to supply class-A drugs, his first and only offence.
He was originally given a suspended sentence and community service, with the judge citing him as a man of good character.
But the decision was later appealed by the Crown Prosecution Service, which argued that the sentence was too lenient.
Mr McDonald was then sentenced in absentia to three years and three months in jail, resulting in his indefinite leave to remain being revoked before he was handed a deportation notice.
Under immigration laws, non-British citizens who are given a custodial sentence of 12 months or more are subject to automatic deportation.
As he is the main caregiver in his family, Mr McDonald fears that his wife, who is now alone with five young children under the age of 12, may be unable to cope if he is deported.
“If I was there I would make them breakfast, while she’s upstairs with the baby. Now it’s very, very, very difficult for her to do. Every time I speak to her I can hear it in her voice, sometimes I have to cut the conversation short because there are tears in her eyes.”
He added of his two-month-old son: “If I was to go, he’s never gonna remember who I am.
“Even small things, like the last day of school last week — sports day — I was supposed to be there. My son was saying: ‘Daddy you didn’t see me run!’ I didn’t know what to say to them. And they [the Home Office] are saying I can maintain these relationships through Skype — these people are crazy!
“I understand I committed a crime, I put my hand up. But I’ve done my time, I’ve served my sentence — but I feel like I’ve been punished so many times.”
Another man facing deportation, Akeem Finlay, said he fears for his life if he is sent to Jamaica. Mr Finlay came to Britain at the age of 10 and lives with his fiance and four children, who are aged between 10 years old and 10 months old.
He said his mother was forced to send him to Britain after he was stabbed twice by gang members at the age of nine. His cousin was recently killed by the same gang.
“He got killed and basically they’ve said if any family member comes down, the same thing is going to happen to them,” Mr Finlay said. “If they deport me, within months I’ll be killed.”
Mr Finlay was detained for a second time last week following a conviction for GBH in 2011. “My crime happened 11 years ago and I’m still being punished for it,” he said. “Everyone makes mistakes, I made a mistake when I was young. I come out of jail, I take care of my kids and my family - that’s all I do. I just don’t understand why they are breaking up my family.”
Since leaving prison in 2017, the 31-year-old has also become the main caregiver of his family, including supporting his mother who was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Karen Doyle, a member of the Movement for Justice campaign, said she was aware of 13 Jamaican nationals who have been detained in the past week, and that she has spoken to 10 of them.
Of those 10, six came to Britain as children, one when they were as young as 3 months old.
“These particular deportations highlight the racism and injustice of these charter flights,” she said.
“That’s why the [Jamaican] High Commission ensured this group of people would not be on the plane in December. The reasons haven’t changed, the racist injustice hasn’t changed — it is disgraceful that the Jamaican government has backed down from their previous position. “
Ms Doyle said there was still time to reverse the decision, and called on the Jamaican government to “stand up for these young men who are British in all but passport colour.”
Twenty-three British children are at risk of losing their fathers if the flight goes ahead, she added, while all but one detainee has lived in the country for 20 years or more.
The Home Office has been widely condemned for targeting Caribbean nationals for deportation in light of the Windrush scandal which saw British citizens wrongly deported and denied rights.
Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants campaigns and communication director Minnie Rahman said: “There is no evidence that the government has learnt the lessons from the Windrush scandal and instead they are doubling down on policies which tear people from their families in the middle of the night. The Home Office must stop this cruel practice.”
BARAC UK national chair Zita Holbourne said: “The government try to portray all [detainees] as the worse criminals guilty of horrific crimes but the majority are not, some are guilty of driving offences, others victims of county lines and modern day slavery.
“Others came out of prison years or decades ago and have turned their lives around. This blanket targeting of black communities on top of the Windrush Scandal is nothing short of racism.”
The Home Office said a person’s age upon arrival or their nationality are not exceptions to automatic deportation.
A spokesperson said: “We make no apology for seeking to remove those with no right to remain in the UK and dangerous foreign criminals.
“That is why we regularly operate charter flights to different countries - to remove dangerous criminals, and those who have no right to be in the country but refuse to leave voluntarily.
“Our new Nationality and Borders Bill will create an immigration system that is fair but firm, welcoming those in genuine need but cracking down on those who come to the UK illegally.”
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