Stop all charter flight deportations to Jamaica and other Commonwealth countries
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Given the Windrush scandal : the apology by the Government, promises of justice and compensation to people of the Windrush generation and others who came to the UK from Commonwealth countries threatened with deportation, there should be no mass deportations of anybody to those countries.
We started this petition in the spring of 2018 after learning that the government had planned a charter flight to Jamaica which was to depart the UK in May 2018 with those of the Windrush generation on it. Following a public outcry mass deportations on charter flights were suspended to Jamaica because of the Windrush scandal but not other countries.
Last year both Theresa May and the then Home Secretary, Amber Rudd apologised for the treatment of Windrush generation people in Britain threatened with forced removal. Theresa May said; "Those who arrived from the Caribbean before 1973 and lived here permanently without significant periods of time away in the last 30 years have the right to remain in the UK as do the vast majority of long term residents who arrived later and I don't want anybody to be in doubt about their right to remain here in the United Kingdom."
Charter flights are used for mass deportations to a single country. People are detained and removed on such flights sometimes within 2 weeks, leaving very little time to get legal support, appeal of seek an injunction or Judicial Review.
At the time of the planned 2018 flight we know of two women who were detained at Yarls Wood and were booked onto the flight to Jamaica and we have seen the removal notice of one. One woman, Yvonne Williams, has since been taken off the flight and is no longer in detention. Since starting this petition, the other woman - 63 year old Yvonne Smith, was taken off too and released from the detention centre after being there for nine months.
Since then there has not been a charter flight to Jamaica until 6th February 2019. There has been to other countries which we think is wrong. We with other groups campaigned to oppose this new flight once we discovered it through people booked on it that they had started again.
The government claimed that there was no Windrush link for those they planned to deport but we know that for at least half of them that there was as they had Windrush generation parents or grandparents. They also included Commonwealth soldiers who served in the British Army whose treatment has been akin to the Windrush generation. Some of those targeted were people the Home Office planned to put on last year's flight. They all have strong family ties in the UK. They would not have come to the UK if it were not for the fact that they have a close Windrush generation family member here.
Given that a number of reviews and consultations relating to the Windrush scandal have not concluded we think it is premature to start deporting people. Furthermore we are aware that some booked on it were awaiting outcomes to their applications for the Windrush Scheme.
We strongly believe there needs to be an Independent Public Inquiry into the Windrush scandal, something that is backed by trade unions and others.
The charter flight to Jamaica on 6th February 2019 took 29 of the suggested 50 by government with several doing last minute injunctions and appeals to stop their removal.
It would seem the Home Secretary deliberately misled MPs in Parliament on 6th of February by stating that all booked on the flight were guilty of serious crimes. This is not true. One 23 year old received and had served a suspended sentence for good behaviour of 7 months for a driving offence. At least 21 were not deported in the end because they had grounds to legally challenge their removal.
We oppose such mass deportations and all other aspects of the hostile environment and until the Government has set out a clear policy on which people from Commonwealth countries are protected, they should not be authorising charter flights.
We call on the government to address the issue of justice for those who have already been deported to Commonwealth countries to include return to the UK if they wish to, permanent leave to remain in the UK and British citizenship if they wish and compensation for their losses to date and the trauma they and their families have experienced including those who have just been deported in February 2019.
A further charter flight deportation of up to 50 people has been arranged by the government to take place on 11th February 2020. Many of those booked on it came to the UK as children and previously had indefinite leave to remain.
On 6th of February 2020 a leaked copy of the Windrush Lessons Learned report revealed that it was recommended that nobody who came to the UK as a child should be deported.
We further call on the government to halt all deportations until the Windrush Lessons Learned report is published and recommendations fully implemented and until there is an Independent Public Inquiry into the Windrush scandal.
This petition wording has been updated to reflect the current situation.
I am the Co-chair of BARAC UK and this petition is now co-signed by BAME Lawyers for Justice, a group of legal representatives, grassroots campaigning orgs and various Windrush justice groups.
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