Thirty-seven Jamaicans narrowly avoided deportation from the United Kingdom (UK) following a flurry of last-minute legal challenges.
Documents lodged in the high court by the UK Home Office stated that its intention was to remove as many as 50 Jamaican nationals, but only a fraction of that number boarded the flight, according to ministry sources.
But a significant number of other offenders were granted a last-minute reprieve. One elderly man was removed from the charter flight just 10 minutes before its scheduled departure, according to the charity group, Detention Action.
The organization provided legal representation and support for seven of the men who were removed from the flight and three of the 13 who were deported.
The 37 Jamaicans were removed from the flight based on court orders in their individual cases. Among the reasons for the aborted deportations was that some of the Jamaicans were “exploited and victimised”.
The mass deportation became a high-profile issue after a series of campaigns including one from 82 black public figures – among them the author Bernardine Evaristo, the model Naomi Campbell and the historian David Olusoga – who urged airlines not to operate the Home Office flight.
The UK’s Home Office said the 13 people deported had combined jail terms of more than 100 years for various crimes, including three convicted of murder, another of manslaughter, while others had been sentenced for crimes like grooming, drug dealing, burglary and robbery.
Charter flights to Jamaica are particularly controversial because of the Windrush scandal, and because some people earmarked for deportation came to the UK as children or have lived in the country for decades with established families.
The charter flight is scheduled to arrive in Jamaica this afternoon.