Almost 70 MPs and peers have signed a letter to Priti Patel demanding that she cancels a deportation flight to Jamaica set to take off on Wednesday.
Charities and activists say as many 50 people could be deported on the flight organised by the Home Office.
The government’s plans have already sparked a huge backlash from campaigners, who have condemned them as “dangerous and wrong”.
Now MPs have launched their own attempt to get the home secretary to back down on the deportation flight, which is scheduled for the day England’s second lockdown ends.
The letter to Patel – which was coordinated by Labour’s Clive Lewis – reads: “Some of the individuals affected [by the deportation] arrived in this country as children. Many now have children of their own. Britain is their home.”
MPs have also warned that the lives of those being deported will be put at risk amid the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, which has killed more than 58,000 people in the UK alone.
“The conditions of deportation, such as shackling detainees to ushers for long journeys in potentially cramped conditions, risk exposing people to the virus,” the letter reads, adding that Black people are already at an increased risk of contracting coronavirus.
But it’s not just Covid-19 that MPs are worried about. “The dangers of return are huge,” the letter goes on.
“We know that five UK deportees were killed between 2018 and 2019. Some people in detention have scars from past abuse in Jamaica, or siblings who have been murdered.”
The letter also points out: “You have previously committed to ‘righting the wrongs’ concerning the Windrush scandal. But eight months after the Windrush Lessons Learned Review was published, the recommendations have still not been fully implemented, it adds.
“Planning a pre-Christmas deportation flight demonstrates that the Home Office has so far failed to learn any lessons. It has been reported that at least one of those already detained for this flight has a Windrush generation grandfather.”
The letter ends: “Tackling institutionalised racism starts one step at a time. We must not see a repeat of the actions that led to members of the Windrush generation being so unjustly treated.
“We urge you to cancel this flight and take a step in the right direction towards ending the hostile environment.”
Former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, who also signed the letter, has penned his own message to the home secretary.
Corbyn called the deportation “the continuation of an unnecessarily harsh approach that ought to have been abandoned on the back of lessons learnt from the Windrush scandal”.
He added: “Actions speak louder than words and the government must prove that it no longer actively pursues such a hostile approach.”
In a separate statement, Lewis said the deportation policy “should shame any government that cares a jot about basic human rights”.
“Despite the Windrush scandal and the damning EHRC report published less than a week ago, this government is doing little more than pay lip service to righting wrongs and correcting injustice,” he said.
The Home Office has insisted that all the people set to be deported are “foreign national offenders”.
A spokesperson said: “We make no apology for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals to keep the public safe.
“Each week we remove foreign criminals from the UK to different countries who have no right to be here, this flight is no different.
“The people being detained for this flight include convicted murderers and rapists.”
The Home Office previously listed other serious offences committed by those set to be on the flight. However, they declined to provide the full list of convictions when asked by HuffPost UK.
Zita Holbourne – co-founder of BARAC UK, a group that campaigns against racism and for migrant rights, said that “those targeted for deportation are branded by government as hardened criminals”.
Under UK law, non-British citizens who are convicted of a criminal offence and sentenced to 12 months or more in prison in the UK can be eligible for deportation.