The Home Office tried to deter any sympathy for the deportees by dubbing them all ‘foreign national offenders’
The Independent Voices
The first charter flight to Jamaica since the Windrush scandal erupted last April has prompted sustained outrage – and rightly so. Stories of the people due to be on the flight have emerged in recent days and they are nothing short of heartbreaking. Some had young British-born children, at least one had a baby on the way. Many have been flown back to a country they barely know.
Their stories received no shortage of media and political attention. Days after news of the flight broke it escalated to a parliamentary debate. A seething David Lammy catechised the home secretary for it, and 58 MPs rallied together to call for an immediate halt to the flight through an open letter. At least seven of those due to be deported were granted last-minute reprieve – which almost certainly wouldn’t have happened without the public attention.
But charter flights to Jamaica and other Commonwealth countries are nothing new. More than 1,600 people were deported from the UK on 42 charter flights in 2017. One took off to Nigeria just a matter of weeks ago – yet none have garnered nearly the same level of public outrage as the one to Jamaica this week.
There is no doubt the flurry of rage over the flight was prompted by the association of the Caribbean to the Windrush scandal. Lammy attacked Sajid Javid in the Commons for deporting Jamaican nationals before the Windrush review was complete, questioning how the Home Office could be sure it wasn’t “making the same mistakes”.
He had a good point. But we are forgetting that the so-called “Windrush” issue spans far wider than the West Indies. In the months since the scandal broke, it has become increasingly clear that Nigerians, Indians and other Commonwealth nationals have also had their rights breached by the government’s hostile environment. Narrowing it to the Carribean is to hugely underplay the government’s error.