The Government recently detained two of my constituents, a mother and daughter, ahead of a mass deportation flight to Jamaica. Both women have close family here. Neither has a criminal record. They arrived on a joint visitors visa, but shortly before they were due to return, her mother fell down a flight of stairs and developed a serious injury, leaving her unfit to fly. The daughter started attending school but difficulties around her immigration status led to her dropping out. In the run-up to the flight, she was detained in the infamous Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre (which would have been closed down under a Labour government).
This decision typifies the way the government frequently fail to make a proper assessment of individual situations and needs in their haste to deport. Thankfully, following my letter to the Home Secretary and pressure from migrant justice campaigners, the Government decided to pull them off the flight – along with the majority of those scheduled to be on it. If it had gone ahead, it would be the first flight with non-offenders on board since before the Windrush Scandal. The fact that so many people were removed from the flight offers further proof that the Home Office continues to operate under the same “deport first, ask questions later” mentality that led to the Windrush Scandal and tore friends and neighbours from our community.
The flight went ahead at a cost of £200,000: £50,000 a head for each of the four people the Government deported. Another reminder, as the Tories prepare to get their Nationality and Borders Bill through Parliament, that the Hostile Environment is a very expensive way of playing divide and rule.