Black public figures including Afua Hirsch, Naomi Campbell, and David Olusoga have called on a number of airlines to refuse to work with the Home Office on the deportations of 50 people to Jamaica on 2 December, arguing it would be “wholly inappropriate at this time”.
The letter, signed by 91 public figures, is addressed to CEOs and managing directors of six charter airlines that have previously worked with the Home Office to facilitate their deportations, namely TUI UK and Ireland, Evelop Airlines, Titan Airways, Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT), Hi Fly and Air Tanker.
Signatories are requesting airline chiefs decline any invitation from the government to operate a flight on 2 December that is set to deport 50 people to Jamaica. Additionally, the letter also requests that these airlines “cease the operation of deportation fights to Commonwealth countries for the foreseeable future”.
The letter raises alarm that if deportations are allowed to continue — including next week’s mass transportation of people who have not been to Jamaica since their childhood — then members of the Windrush generation or Windrush descendants who may have the right to remain in the UK but do not yet have the required paperwork may be unlawfully deported from this country.
The signatories also raise the outcome of the 2018 Shaw Report, commissioned by the Home Secretary, which states “the Home Office should no longer routinely seek to remove those who were born in the UK or have been brought up here from an early age”. These findings directly contradict the upcoming deportations, as all of those facing removal have remained in the UK since their childhood.
The letter also notes the results of a Jun 2020 Savanta ComRes poll, which found that 77 per cent of the public agrees that people who have lived in the UK for the majority of their lives should not be deported.
Those who have signed the letter, which also includes former Independent Voices deputy editor Kuba Shand-Baptise and journalist Charlie Brinkhurst Cuff, state that the UK’s system for recognising asylum seekers is “broken”, and many of those who are set to be deported on 2 December have physical evidence of trauma from their time in Jamaica; some of whom have also had siblings killed in the country, making their transportation back to the country a “grave risk” to their lives.
The letter asks the airline chiefs to consider the credible risks of unlawful and wrongful deportations be considered against a backdrop of concern about systemic racism, being evidenced by a recent EHRC report finding the British Hostile Environment policies breach of equality laws and discriminate against black people and the points raised by recent Black Lives Matter protests after the killing of George Floyd in the US.