15:34, February 10 262 0 theguardian.com

2020-02-10 15:34:04
Court deals blow to UK government's deportation plans

The 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 court of appeal made the ruling in an emergency out-of-hours hearing on Monday 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 on Tuesday – “unless satisfied (they) had access to a functioning, non-O2 Sim card on or before 3 February”.

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.

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 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. The court of appeal has been asked to consider the judicial review and is expected to make another out of hours ruling late on Monday.

Some individuals due to fly have won the right to stay in the UK for the time being, after a separate application to the upper tribunal of the immigration chamber. They include Akeem Finlay, whose solicitor Naga Kandiah welcomed the decision, but condemned the Home Office’s plan to deport so many men who would leave partners and children behind. “It seems there is an inherent disregard for the integrity of the family unit and the welfare of children,” he said.

Rishi Sunak, the chief secretary to the Treasury, said those being forcibly removed had committed “very serious offences”. But 13 detainees due to board Tuesday’s flight described a range of less serious offences they had committed.

More than 150 cross-party MPs have called on Boris Johnson to halt the flight, citing a range of concerns.

Toufique Hossain, director of Public Law at Duncan Lewis solicitors, said many of the people on the flight had lived in the UK for most of their lives and that there needed to be a proper overview and consideration given to how the Home Office approached such individuals.

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: “Our information indicates that most have been convicted of drugs-related offences – often only once – and several have been groomed into county lines operations.”

The Home Office has not responded to recommendations from the former prisons ombudsman Stephen Shaw or to a leak from the Windrush Lessons Learned review, which suggested that foreign national offenders who had lived in the UK for most of their lives should not face automatic deportation.

Last year the Guardian revealed that at least five men had been murdered after their deportation to Jamaica. One of the five was Dewayne Robinson, 37.

It has emerged that Robinson was the cousin of Akeem Finlay, 30, one of those who is facing enforced return to Jamaica on Tuesday after a GBH conviction. Finlay came to the UK at the age of 10.

Months before Robinson’s murder on 4 March 2018 after his deportation from the UK, another of Finlay’s cousins was murdered. “The men involved in the murders of my cousins have warned our family not to return to Jamaica or we will be murdered too,” said Finlay.