The United Kingdom Home Office proceeded with the deportation of convicted offenders to Jamaica on February 10, despite a last-minute court ruling to overturn the decision. All of the deportees were of Jamaican nationality and had been detained for at least 12 months.
The lawyer of some of the offenders claims that a poor mobile signal in the detention centers near Heathrow deterred some of the detainees from receiving legal aid in time.
The mobile signal issue occurred with the 02 phone network in the Harmondsworth and Colnbrook removal centers, and 1,000 new subscriber identification module (SIM) cards were set to be sent to those affected by the issue on February 9.
Decision to proceed with the flight
However, the chartered plane had taken off despite the court ruling on the night of February 10 to not remove anyone from the UK before ensuring that the detainees “had access to a functioning, non-O2 SIM card on or before February 3.”
“The court ruling does not apply to all of the foreign national offenders due to be deported and we have therefore proceeded with the flight,” the UK Home Office said in a statement.
Chancellor Sajid Javid says around 20 Jamaicans were on the chartered flight, instead of 50 offenders who were scheduled to board the plane. Javid also said that none of the court-protected detainees were sent home.
According to the Home Office, it does not regret sending the offenders home as it stated the intention was to protect the public from serious and violent offenders.
Members of the opposition were pushing to suspend the flight until a report on the Windrush scandal was published.
In 2018, many British residents of Carribean nationalities were reportedly wrongfully detained and threatened with deportation due to lack of documentation. These residents arrived in the United Kingdom before 1971, and have worked and lived in the country for decades.
The name ‘Windrush’ refers to the name of the ship, MV Empire Windrush, which docked in Essex, England in 1948. The ship ferried 492 passengers from Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago as well as other islands in order to fill labor shortages after World War II.
Many of the passengers were children and had traveled on their parents’ passports. These individuals have reportedly never applied for official travel documentation.