(SKY NEWS) — At least seven people set to be deported to Jamaica have been granted a last-minute reprieve, with dozens more put on a charter flight for removal, according to activists.
Campaigners working with those due to be deported by the Home Office believe up to 40 people were on a flight from Birmingham to the island’s capital Kingston that took off on Wednesday morning.
A Home Office spokesperson confirmed that 29 “serious foreign criminals were flown to Jamaica on a chartered flight”, ranging in age from early 20s to late 50s.
They added: “The crimes committed by the individuals include murder, rape and serious violence. The total combined sentence of their crimes is over 150 years’ imprisonment.
“The law requires that we seek to deport foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK. This ensures we keep the public safe.”
The criminal convictions of those deported included:
:: 4 convicted of a sex offence, including rape
:: 6 convicted of violent crime, including GBH
:: 1 convicted of murder
:: 1 convicted of attempted murder
:: 14 convicted of drug offences, including supplying class A drugs
:: 1 convicted of robbery
:: 3 convicted of firearm and weapons offences
:: 1 convicted of dangerous driving
The Home Office has not commented on any reported reprieves.
Those set to be deported had all served criminal sentences and none were British citizens, but many had lived in the UK since childhood and had children and families in the UK.
Men who were not placed on the flight said detainees were removed from their cells at around 1:30am, and were bussed to Birmingham airport where they were loaded on to a plane.
The father of Chevon Brown. who has not been heard from since Tuesday night, said he has received no confirmation his son was removed but had contacted a friend in Jamaica for help if the 22-year-old does arrive in the country.
“I haven’t slept since last night,” he said. “Everybody is in pieces.”
He said Chevon has been in the UK since the age of 14 and served seven months in jail for a driving offence last year..
“My brother asked, where will he go – and I don’t know. He has nowhere to go in Jamaica,” he said.
Speaking late last night before the flight took off, Chevon Brown told Sky News he was “overwhelmed” and frightened at being returned to Jamaica, where he says he does not know anyone.
“I’ve had my friends crying calling me, they don’t know when they’ll see me again,” he said.
Among those not deported was Twane Morgan, an Afghanistan veteran with PTSD, who received an injunction to remain in the UK on Tuesday night but was taken to Birmingham airport and put on the plane, only to be removed at the last minute.
His lawyer Rachel Okello told Sky News Mr Morgan called her at 1.30am saying he was being removed.
On requesting details from the Home Office she was sent a nine-page decision, and after several hours of legal proceedings a stay was secured and Mr Morgan removed from the flight.
“I was shocked,” she said. “It’s appalling that the British government are acting in this way and it raises deeper problems about people potentially being unlawfully removed.”
Owen Haisley was also among those not deported. He remains in Harmondsworth detention centre. He has been in the UK for 41 years and has three children here.
“All we know is that our deportation has been delayed,” he said. “That’s all we know until further notice.”
Mr Haisley added that he was anxious for those who had been deported, particularly Mr Brown.
“To be honest I don’t think he should’ve been on that flight and I feel very worried for him, because how we’ve all been labelled as murderers and rapists. He’s got a driving offence. It’s proper harsh.
“Last year I was nearly put on a plane. I can’t even imagine what’s going through his head at the moment.”
Yesterday Labour MP David Lammy tabled an urgent parliamentary question about the deportations, accusing the government of pandering to “far-right racism, sham immigration targets and a dog-whistle to the right-wing press”.
Home Secretary Sajid Javid said none of the people on board the flight were British citizens and that all “had been convicted of a serious crime”.
He added: “Many of those crimes are things like rape and murder, firearms offences, drug trafficking, and we are required under the law quite correctly to deport anyone that has such a serious conviction.”