10/02/2020 20:58 GMT | Updated 11/02/2020 08:29 GMT

Court Ruling Threatens To Halt Deportation Flight To Jamaica

Campaigners say the deportation of around 50 people held near Heathrow cannot go ahead after a Court of Appeal ruling.

Campaigners believe the planned deportation to Jamaica of more than 50 people cannot go ahead after a Court of Appeal ruling dealt a blow to the government’s plans.

The Home Office has been told not to remove anyone scheduled to be deported from two detention centres near Heathrow airport unless they had access to a functioning, non-O2 Sim card on or before February 3.

Lady Justice Simler granted the order without a court hearing following an urgent application on paper.

The charity Detention Action, which made the appeal, argued that some of the detainees at Colnbrooke and Harmondsworth detention centres were being denied access to justice.

It argued those being held do not have a functioning mobile phone, following issues with an O2 phone mast in the area, and did not have adequate access to legal advice.

The charity said it believed 56 people would be affected by the ruling.

Campaigners chant slogans outside Downing Street as they protest against government plans to deport 50 people to Jamaica

The Home Office said it would asking the judge to reconsider the ruling, saying the flight is “specifically for deporting foreign national offenders”.

Government ministers had previously insisted the flight, which was understood to be scheduled to leave the UK at 6.30am on Tuesday, would go ahead despite concerns people who came to the country as young children will be on board.

Bella Sankey, director of Detention Action, said: “We are delighted with this landmark decision which is a victory for access to justice, fairness and the rule of law.

“On the basis of this order from our Court of Appeal we do not believe that anyone currently detained at the Heathrow detention centres can be removed on tomorrow’s flight.

“We understand that this will apply to at least 56 people.”

Toufique Hossain, director of public law at Duncan Lewis, which is representing some of those scheduled to be deported, said: “For weeks now detainees’ complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

“Their removal looms large, hours away and yet again it takes judicial intervention to make the Home Office take basic, humane and fair steps to allow people to enjoy their constitutional right to access justice.” 

Liberal Democrat home affairs spokeswoman Christine Jardine said: “What will it take for this government to learn? Even after the appalling Windrush scandal, Conservative ministers were brazenly defending their plans to deport people just hours before the court ruled it unlawful.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The planned charter flight to Jamaica is specifically for deporting foreign national offenders. Those detained for removal include people convicted of manslaughter, rape, violent crime and dealing Class-A drugs.

“We are urgently asking the judge to reconsider their ruling and it would be inappropriate to comment further whilst legal proceedings are ongoing.”