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Court deals blow to UK gov’t’s deportation plans for Jamaicans

By Jamaica Gleaner

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(JAMAICA GLEANER) – The UK government has received a blow to its plans to deport about 50 people to Jamaica after one of two legal actions to try to halt the scheduled flight succeeded.

The UK Guardian is reporting that the Court of Appeal made the ruling in an emergency out-of-hours hearing last night, ordering the Home Office not to remove anyone scheduled to be deported from two detention centres near Heathrow on the 6:30am flight to Jamaica today – “unless satisfied (they) had access to a functioning, non-O2 Sim card on or before 3 February”.

It is reported that there has been a problem with the O2 phone network in the Heathrow detention centres since last month so many detainees have not been able to exercise their legal right to contact their lawyers.

Following reports that the decision meant that the deportation flight had been cancelled, 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.”

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, which brought the legal challenge, said: “We are delighted with this landmark decision which is a victory for access to justice, fairness and the rule of law. 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 flight. We understand that this will apply to at least 56 people.”

Toufique Hossain, director of public law at Duncan Lewis, who brought the case for Detention Action said: “For weeks now detainees’ complaints have fallen on deaf ears. Their removal looms large, hours away and yet again it takes judicial intervention to make the home office take basic, humane and fair steps to allow people to enjoy their constitutional right to access justice.”

Earlier, a high court judge refused an emergency application to halt the charter flight.

Mr Justice Sir Nicholas Mostyn refused an application from Duncan Lewis solicitors on behalf of 13 Jamaican-born men due to be put on the flight leaving the UK at 6.30am.

The lawyers argued that the home secretary, Priti Patel, had acted unlawfully by forcing the men on to the plane, had breached human rights legislation and denied them adequate access to legal advice.

Their application to the high court to halt the flight added that the Home Office’s announcements in the media and in parliament about the charter flight would make the men being deported a “public spectacle” if they were returned to Jamaica, and place them at risk.

The grounds for the refusal have not yet been made public.

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