On Wednesday 2 December, a charter flight intended to deport 50 Jamaican nationals from the UK back to Jamaica went ahead, though with thirteen rather than 50.
There had been a campaign with many high-profile celebrities such as Naomi Campbell fronting it. Home Secretary Priti Patel was heavily critically of the Labour MPs and celebrities such as Thandie Newton who protested, referring to them as “do-gooders”. She claimed people seeking to halt the deportation risked the safety of British people by allowing criminals to reside on British soil.
To what extent are “British” people in danger from these “criminals”, who have resided in the UK for many years, and many of whom have never returned to Jamaica since their arrival in the UK?
Many of the activists who fought and campaigned against the deportation flight argued that essentially these individuals are more British than Jamaican, and so that “returning” them to Jamaica could be seen as an unlawful act.
By deporting these people back, the government and the Home Office in particular could risk wrongfully removing many, as has happened in many cases before, revealed in the Windrush scandal of 2018.
In the Windrush scandal, the Home Office was found to have gone ahead with the unlawful deportation of people from Commonwealth countries who at the time of their arrival in the UK would have been considered British nationals. They were wrongfully told they were illegal immigrants.
Campaigners asked the question: do these recent deportations to Jamaica, like the Windrush scandal, have ties with institutional racism?
All of the 13 deported back to their birth country of Jamaica had little or no current ties to Jamaica (so campaigners argued) and many are fathers to British-national children, now left fatherless. The mothers of those children pointed out the financial devastation they face when having to provide for those children as new-found single mothers.
According to Jamaica’s High Commissioner in London, Seth Ramocan, there was a secret deal between the British government and Jamaican authorities not to deport anyone back to Jamaica who had arrived in the UK at the age of 12 or under.
Such backdoor deals by the British government confirm the confusions of Britishness. By sneaking in such a deal, does the British government recognise the Britishness of those who arrived young, or is it just biding its time?
The ongoing story of deportations of individuals who have lived most of their lives in Britain raises a question: when are they British criminals? Or is it the case that they will always been seen as Jamaican criminals, even if they have spent a lifetime in Britain?