Government appeals deportation flight ban for some foreign criminals

11 February 2020, 06:54

The government says they're criminals but the Court of Appeal says only those who've had recent access to a working SIM card can travel
The government says they're criminals but the Court of Appeal says only those who've had recent access to a working SIM card can travel. Picture: PA

The Home Office seeking an urgent review from the Court of Appeal to a ruling that could prevent dozens of convicted criminals from being deported this morning.

A chartered deportation flight was due to leave the UK for Jamaica with 50 people on board but campaigners say it has now been halted.

Late on Monday, a court order was granted over concerns some of the detainees might have been unable to get legal advice. due to some of them having poor mobile phone reception

More than 170 MPs had called on the government to stop the flight, which had been due to leave at 6.30 am on Tuesday.

Government ministers have described those on board as serious and persistent offenders including murderers and rapists.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The planned charter flight to Jamaica is specifically for deporting foreign national offenders. Those detained for removal include people convicted of manslaughter, rape, violent crime and dealing Class-A drugs.

"We are urgently asking the judge to reconsider their ruling and it would be inappropriate to comment further whilst legal proceedings are ongoing."

Kevin Foster MP told the Commons: "There are no British nationals on that flight. And let's be clear, the foreign nationals on that flight have been sentenced to a total of 300 years in prison."

Mr Foster added: “And I think to define the Windrush generation by this particular group of offenders is truly wrong.

“The Windrush generation should be defined by the midwife who delivered hundreds of babies, the person who travelled thousands of miles to work hard and provide for their family for decades.

“And I do think it’s absolutely remarkable now the lines being adopted opposite, that somehow it’s defined by those who have are serious or persistent criminal offenders being deported from this country.”

Bella Sankey, from the charity Detention Action, said she was "delighted" by the ruling adding: "On the basis of this order from our Court of Appeal we do not believe that anyone currently detained at the Heathrow detention centres can be removed on tomorrow's [Tuesday's] flight."

"We understand that this will apply to at least 56 people."

Around 12,000 migrants are thought to be forcibly removed from the UK each year while thousands more leave the country voluntarily.

Human rights campaigners have criticised commercial airlines that co-operate with deportations, claiming they are complicit in the policy.

Pressure from activists in 2018 prompted Virgin Atlantic to announce it would no longer offer seats to the Home Office to forcibly deport people deemed to be illegal immigrants.

British Airways has been accused of continuing to take part in the practice but has said it is bound by law to do so when asked by the Government, although it is never told any personal information.

Airlines say they can only refuse deportees if they feel there is a threat to the safety or security of the aircraft, its passengers or the individual.

Smaller private firms are also paid by the Government to charter flights for groups of detainees but details on the amount of money spent and how regularly the flights leave are scant.

Campaigners say the process is not transparent, which means detainees, their families and lawyers are not told the flight details, and this prevents the public from scrutinising the policy.

According to charity Bail for Immigration Detainees, Home Office data obtained through a freedom of information request by the group No Deportations showed there were four flights between July and September and 46 people were removed from the country.