UPDATE 25/02/20: An Immigration Tribunal judge granted bail on Tuesday as other detainees from jamaica were reported granted bail including Howard Ormsby whose story we covered on the weekend.
The pointless cruelty of the Home Office’s deportation policies was revealed today as we spoke to a man handcuffed to a guard in a hospital bed.
The Home Office had attempted to deport him to Jamaica on the controversial February 11 flight despite medical concerns about his fitness to fly – the last time he flew there he was in a two-week coma. These are concerns the Home Office must have been aware of as he was transported in an ambulance.
The 56-year-old father-of-three has been detained by the Home Office since February 4 despite serious health conditions. On Sunday night he was taken to hospital again from a detention centre near Heathrow airport, where he has been locked up despite blood pressure over 200 and head and chest pains.
The man who asked to remain anonymous was taken in handcuffs in an ambulance with a nurse to Heathrow Immigration Removal Centre. Then a week later he was taken in an ambulance to the airport to be deported to Jamaica on the controversial chartered flight on February 11.
After medical representations by his solicitor, he was certified unfit to fly and granted a last minute stay of removal. But he spoke to The London Economic as he and many other of the Jamaican-born people with criminal records who have legal proceedings preventing them being removed are still being detained by the Home Office.
On the weekend we reported how one father-of-five was still being held in detention despite fears for his life in Jamaica from the gang that had tortured him before his mother brought him to the UK as a child. Medical concerns about his deteriorating mental health had been reported to the Home Office and when we spoke to him, the 32-year-old who had made previous attempts on his own life in the past had self-harmed by swallowing batteries as he was becoming desperate.
Today we spoke to another Jamaican-born man, who had also served his sentence for first-time drugs offences and been released before being detained by the Home Office and threatened with removal. He told us he suffers from dangerously high blood pressure and heart and lung complications that have been exacerbated by the stress of being detained indefinitely with the threat of being put on a life-threatening flight hanging over his head.
The 56-year-old was released two years ago after serving three-and-a-half years for drugs supply offences. He expressed the concerns of many caught up in his situation when he explained that because he was born in Jamaica, the Home Office was now threatening to remove him and had left him unable to work or even volunteer with local charities.
“The worst part of it is I am not allowed to work,” he said. “You feel like a shell of a man. If I take the kids to the park and I can’t buy them anything. One mistake has messed my life up.
“A person on their first offence should have the chance to redeem himself rather than breaking up a family. What’s going to happen to those kids growing up without their dad? I don’t want them to grow up like me and make the same mistakes. You have to be there for them.
“I would like to volunteer and tell kids about the mistakes I made but I’m not even allowed to do that. I am a chef and I asked to volunteer and cook for local homeless charities, but my Home Office caseworker said no.” He said that the stress of being in detention had exacerbated his ongoing health conditions.
Home Office has acted ‘in breach of their own policies’
Ahead of a bail hearing on Tuesday, his solicitor Maria Petrova-Collins of Duncan Lewis Solicitors confirmed: “Experts from Medical Justice certified my client as unfit to fly and he was granted individual stay of removal by the High Court hours before the charter flight to Jamaica departed on that basis. The Home Office was ready to deport the client without any evidence that his medical condition and fitness to fly had been investigated before steps were taken to remove him. In fact, the Home Office has been fully aware of his medical condition from the outset. The Home Office sent an ambulance to transfer my client from the reporting centre to the detention centre and once again sent an ambulance to transfer him to the airport. The Home Office was also aware that the client was admitted into emergency care after getting on a plane a few years ago.
“My client has been detained for three weeks now during which he collapsed and was transferred to a hospital on a number of occasions. He sleeps with an oxygen mask and suffers from a long list of medical conditions, including but not limited to extremely high blood pressure, respiratory failure and chronic kidney disease. The experts from Medical Justice have shown concern about my client’s blood pressure being poorly controlled in detention and that being able to result in a heart attack or a stroke. Nevertheless, the Home Office is still opposing the client’s bail application and placing his life at risk by maintaining the decision to detain him.
“It is true that the client has committed criminal offences in the past but he has already served his sentence and has not re-offended ever since. No matter the risk of re-offending, there always comes a time when detention of a person pending deportation becomes unlawful. It is obvious that now the client has a pending Judicial Review application and in light of his medical condition, he cannot be deported to Jamaica in the near future and the only thing the Home Office is achieving by maintaining his detention is to inflict severe pain on the client. I am hopeful that the First-tier Tribunal will recognise the unreasonableness of this detention which places the client at a constant risk of harm or death, and would grant his bail application. If this doesn’t happen I will have no other option but challenge the decision to detain him in the High Court of Justice.
“Unfortunately, this is not the first time the Home Office has shown complete disregard to the specific circumstances of vulnerable detainees. It is not the first time either that the Home Office has acted in breach of their own policies, which makes it mandatory for solicitors to seek the courts’ interference and hold the Home Office accountable for their often terrible and costly mistakes. This time, however, the Home Office has gone one step further by disregarding unambiguous expert medical evidence and placing a seriously ill man’s life at high risk. Such conduct should be heavily criticised not only as being clearly unreasonable but also inhumane.”
17 people were deported to Jamaica on the chartered flight earlier in the month. Twenty-five others remain in the UK after a judge found that they had not had adequate access to legal advice within detention centres. Most are still being detained, despite the Home Secretary arguing at the time that if they were not removed that night, despite concerns over access to justice, it would take a long time to organize another such flight.
Priti Patel also came under criticism last week after it was revealed the words “institutional racist” to describe the Home Office were removed from a supposedly independent report into the Windrush scandal. The report was commissioned after the Government’s hostile environment policy had resulted in the wrongful deportation of members of the Windrush generation who have lived and paid taxes in the UK for decades.
Now many more are being threatened with deportation to Commonwealth countries after committing offences in the UK, despite having British children and families. Downing Street insisted those due to be deported on the February flight to Jamaica had committed serious crimes, but it has begun to emerge that among those threatened with deportation are first offenders, drugs and driving offences and people who claim to have been coerced into involvement in county lines gangs.
After the flight removed 17 Jamaican-born ex-offenders, the Leader of the Opposition Jeremy Corbyn accused the Government of learning “absolutely nothing from the Windrush scandal” . The Labour leader referenced Boris Johnson’s own past, after Johnson admitted in 2007 that he had taken cocaine, and a recording emerged of Johnson helping pal and convicted fraudster Darius Guppy plot to beat up a journalist. Jeremy Corbyn asked New-York-born Prime Minister Boris Johnson in parliament: “If there was a case of a young white boy with blonde hair who later dabbled in Class A drugs and conspired with a friend to beat up a journalist, would he deport that boy? Or is it one rule for young black boys from the Caribbean and another for young white boys from the US?”
Concerns about the over-use of detention centres to process people with immigration issues were raised at the end of last year when a report revealed that less than half of the people held in immigration detention centres are even deported. Of the 25,487 people who left detention in 2018, only 44 per cent were returned from the UK to another country, the findings by Independent Monitoring Boards said. The boards also raised concerns over excess use of restraints, saying: “At one point, over 90 per cent of detainees from one centre were handcuffed for external appointments; after the IMB raised concerns, this was significantly reduced.”
Karen Doyle of Movement For Justice who has been speaking to many in this position currently, said: “This is a man so sick that the home office know to make him travel in an ambulance. Someone whose blood pressure is so consistently high that flying could be a death sentence. They continue to detain him knowing the stress and conditions only worsen his detention. What they are putting him through is torture, all in the service of this governments hostile environment. He needs to be released, and all these detention centres need to be shut down.”
The Home Office told The London Economic this weekend: “We make no apology whatsoever for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals. We will be urgently pursuing the removal of those who were prevented from boarding the flight.” A spokesperson said they would be unlikely to comment on particular cases.