Following outrage from several public figures, a deal has reportedly been agreed between the United Kingdom (UK) Home Office and Jamaica to exclude persons who arrived in the UK as children from a deportation flight to the island on Wednesday.
Jamaican High Commissioner to the UK, Seth Ramocan, told the Guardian newspaper that the deal followed diplomatic overtures. But the Home Office has made no official announcement confirming the reported deal and its details.
Ramocan said Jamaica’s High Commission made representation to the Home Office ahead of the chartered flight. An agreement was later reached not to deport those who arrived from the island under the age of 12.
“It’s not law, it’s a kind of understanding. They have consented to having an age limit. It isn’t that the law has changed in any way. It’s a consideration, a request that has been granted. We really appreciate the level of cooperation and consideration given to the representations we made to the Home Office,” Ramocan reportedly told the newspaper.
The news of the reported deal comes after “82 black British public figures”, including model Naomi Campbell, historian David Olusoga, actresses Thandie Newton and Naomie Harris, and writer Bernardine Evaristo, were said to be urging UK airlines to refuse to participate in the deportation flights which are chartered by the Home Office.
The protesters argued that if the deportation takes place, it would “separate families” and “compromise civil liberties”.
In a letter written to the United Kingdom’s secretary of state, Priti Patel, former British Labour Party Leader, Jeremy Corbyn, also pushed back against the deportation, saying: “This planned deportation appears to be a continuation of an unnecessarily harsh approach that ought to have been abandoned on the back of lessons learnt from the Windrush scandal.”
A tally of those excluded from the flight was not disclosed. According to the Jamaica Observer, approximately 50 Jamaicans, who the British Home Office described as “dangerous criminals”, are scheduled to arrive in the island on a charter flight late tomorrow or early Thursday.
Locally, there has been no official statement from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade on the impending deportations.
But in an open letter to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the UK-based Windrush National Organisation urged the Jamaican Government not to allow the flight to land. Jamaica’s Opposition Spokesman on Health and Wellness, Dr Morais Guy also urged the government not to accept the deportees while COVID-19 is still a threat to the island.
Charter flights to Jamaica are particularly controversial because of the Windrush scandal and due to the fact that some people earmarked for deportation arrived in the UK as children and have little to no family in Jamaica.