People with UK family ties have been held in detention centres, moved into isolation and rounded up for a removal flight tonight.
The Home Office has not confirmed details, but it is believed a flight has been chartered to deport people to Nigeria and Ghana.
But some appear to have been taken to be deported unlawfully.
At least two have had last minute injunctions to stop their removal, and people say they had just five days notice – little time to prepare challenges.
The London Economic spoke to Donatus Egberoa, 33, and his British partner Caroline.
Donatus’ family live in the UK and have British passports, including his mother, father and five siblings including his twin sister.
Donatus says he has nobody in Nigeria as he has lived in the UK since the age of 16.
He has Indefinite Leave To Remain but says he had not been able to afford converting that to citizenship and was not aware it mattered before he was convicted of a £50 robbery in his youth.
Since then he has been put in detention by the Home Office a total of seven times to remove him from the UK even though he has nobody in Nigeria and evidence that he was tortured there as a child.
Under the Home Office’s own Rule 35 regulations, people who have medical evidence of torture should not be detained, and Donatus was found to have been tortured by a doctor under the rule.
His partner Caroline told The London Economic: “Why can’t immigration give him a second chance? I just lost my mum and Donatus is my backbone. We have been together for 2 years. If he was returned he could come to harm as he has nobody there, no connections as he hasn’t been there for over 16 years.”
As we spoke to Donatus today, he was told that his solicitor at immigration firm Duncan Lewis had secured an injunction and put in a Judicial Review.
So at the last moment he was driven back from the airport, as he appears the Home Office were set to remove him unlawfully.
Donatus sounded traumatized. He insisted that as a bisexual, unable to read or write because of his dyslexia and with no family links left in Nigeria he feared for his prospects.
Donatus said his £50 robbery conviction was under joint enterprise and there had been no DNA evidence connecting him to the crime and he was not picked out of an identity parade.
He shared this video on Twitter before his smartphone was confiscated:
Another father of two with a British wife and two children aged 5 and 3 was also given a last-minute injunction against removal.
Immigration officials had told him that his kids and wife can join him in Ghana. He had left the UK after serving a 2004 conviction for cannabis possession and returned to the UK, settling down with his new family.
Others on the flight have no conviction and women are being held in Yarls Wood Detention Centre due to be removed on the flight too.
Up to 2,000 people a year are loaded onto secretive deportation flights – generally at night.
They are often shackled with waist restraint belts or leg restraints.
There have been many reports of manhandling by the security guards. Security is now supplied by private security giant Mitie, under a 10 year £524 million contract.
Charter flight companies include small airlines such as Titan Airways.
The Home Office refused to discuss individual cases, and a spokesperson said: “We only return those with no legal right to remain in the UK, including foreign national offenders and failed asylum seekers.
“We carefully consider all representations made in relation to a case and, should further submissions be made, have a duty to grant these appropriate consideration.”
(Boeing 767 Photograph by Alf van Beem Creative Commons)