British High Commissioner Asif Ahmad
British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad is insistent that a charter flight with deportees, scheduled to arrive in the island from England early next month, will contain only individuals who served time for criminal offences in the United Kingdom.
In confirming media reports in the United Kingdom (UK) that a charter flight with deportees is scheduled, Ahmad moved to allay fears that members of “the Windrush generation” — immigrants who migrated to the UK after World War II to address labour shortages — are among those to be sent back to Jamaica.
“I can say explicitly that Home Office ministers are poring over the names to make sure that there are no Windrush-eligible people. The people have rights to permanent settlement under the Windrush criteria, or due to their citizenship, no question whatsoever.
“And also, unlike in the past, the people who are going to be deported are not immigration offenders, they are all people who have served sentences in the UK beyond 12 months — that’s the criteria,” Ahmad told the Jamaica Observer yesterday.
He said if there are Jamaicans who are illegal immigrants in the UK who want to return home voluntarily, they would also be on the flight. While the British media have reported that the flight is scheduled to land on February 11, Ahmad said he could neither give a firm date nor the exact number of people who will be deported.
“The reason why we never give out numbers is that we have a long list of ‘X’ many people, but everybody has a legal right, until the door of the aircraft is shut, to make a claim as to why they should not be on board,” said Ahmad.
In its story yesterday, the Independent newspaper in Britain reported that a father who has been separated from his wife and young British children is to be deported to Jamaica next month in a move his lawyers say is unlawful.
According to the media report, Joseph Nembhard, 38, was locked up on Monday and told he would be placed on a charter flight to Jamaica on February 11.
Nembhard’s solicitors say the Home Office acted unlawfully in detaining him because he had an ongoing immigration case and is also a key witness in the inquest into the death of an immigration detainee.
The move meant he has been ripped from his partner and children — aged five and eight months — who he lives with in Harringey, London, and faces being deported back to a country he hasn’t visited since he moved to Britain 20 years ago.
David Lammy, the Member of Parliament (MP) for the area where Nembhard and his family lives, has been reported as condemning the Home Office for putting the family in this situation.
The MP said that it was wrong for the Home Office to be chartering deportation flights to Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean before the delayed Windrush review has been published, adding: “How can the home secretary be sure she is not making the same mistakes?”
But Ahmad told the Observer that the UK Government has always followed the process of informing the Jamaican authorities, through the country’s high commissioner in London, of the deportation plans, and this will be done in this case.
“Bearing in mind that the deportation of ‘time served’ offenders is not unique to the UK, every country does it. And as a matter of fact, the number of people deported from the United States and Canada way exceeds our numbers.
“I think there is an emotional tie to the UK, which means that the public are interested and that the grounds for appeal are wider. People have a right to family life and those are tested. If they claim that they are persecuted in some way, those are tested,” added Ahmad as he argued that sending home deportees on a charter flight is not a unique punishment designed for Jamaica.
“It is because we are unable at the moment to use commercial flights to bring these people over that we are using charter flights. If it was possible for us to put people on a normal flight to Jamaica … we would be happy for that,” said Ahmad as he defended the Home Office’s decision to put the deportees on a charter flight.