UK protesters against deportations

As many as seven of the 17 Jamaicans who were deported on a Home Office charter flight on Tuesday have gone into hiding in fear for their lives, the Guardian has learned.

In interviews, three of the 17 who were forcibly returned to Jamaica on Tuesday said they fear they will be targeted by gangs if their whereabouts become known. They said they were staying in secret locations and were afraid to go outside.

One of the men, Rupert Smith, said he was aware of a total of seven deportees who were in hiding and fearful of being the victims of violence if they were to live openly. The Guardian confirmed the names of the men he identified as having been on the flight.

All of those returned believe their lives are in danger in Jamaica. Some have previously received threats from gangsters or have family members who have been threatened.

“At least seven out of the 17 on the flight are in hiding,” Smith said. “I had to leave my family and my kids behind. The Home Office say we are violent and dangerous. I got into a fight with someone who was behaving in an inappropriate way towards my daughter and have one conviction for actual bodily harm.

“Some of those on the flight committed a single crime many years ago and have been living in the community ever since. My lawyer in the UK is still working on my case and I hope I’ll be able to return to the UK.

The Home Office is rumoured to be planning a second charter flight to Jamaica next week for approximately 50 Jamaicans who were taken off this week’s deportation flight after an eleventh hour court of appeal ruling in their favour. The ruling said they should not fly as they had not had five working days of access to their lawyers because of problems with the phone signal at two detention centres close to Heathrow airport – Colnbrook and Harmondsworth.

There are also several detainees at Brook House near Gatwick airport who won a reprieve from flying on this week’s charter flight following individual legal actions by their lawyers. They fear they might be deported on a future flight.

One of the men who was on the deportation flight, who asked not to be named, said: “I’m stressed to the bone by all this. I don’t want anyone to know my location and I haven’t even been able to break the news to my kids yet that I’ve been deported. My lawyer in the UK told me he was hopeful of stopping my flight so when they came for me in the detention centre I didn’t even have time to collect my things together. I arrived here with no spare clothes.”

A third man, Junior Kerr, who has a conviction for grievous bodily harm, said that he was also in hiding.

“They took me to Doncaster airport in a prison van in a cage. I believe my life is in great danger here so I have to remain inside the house where I’m staying. I can’t leave at all. I can’t bear being away from my kids.”

Kerr’s partner, Ruschell Robinson, said that the couple’s children were devastated about being separated from their father.

“Junior has been out of jail for two years and he has been a model citizen since then,” said Robinson.

“He’s a mentor to our kids and to others. Our seven-year-old son is crying all the time and our nine-year-old daughter is refusing to eat and is hardly saying a word.”

Sonia Phillips, partner of Elvis Dunkley, who was on the charter flight, said she and her children were struggling without Dunkley, who was convicted in 2003 of a drugs offence.

“I’m disabled with arthritis and back problems and Elvis did everything to look after me and the children,” she said. “My 18-year-old son is now having to take our younger children Jacob and Savanna, who are five and six, to school every day as I’m unable to do this. I can’t break the news to them that he’s been deported so I’ve told them he’s gone on holiday.

Toufique Hossain of Duncan Lewis solicitors, who issued judicial review proceedings to try to halt Tuesday’s charter flight, said that the legal action was continuing.

He said: “We continue to pursue our legal challenge on several grounds including our clients’ clear submission that they ought to remain in the UK and their deportation orders ought to be reconsidered pending the government’s review on foreign national offenders.”