'They taking me now': tension and confusion before deportation flight
Marcelline Paulette ADJOVI
Feb. 11, 2020
People due to be sent to Jamaica described anxious wait for removal or reprieve
A charter flight has departed from Heathrow taking deportees to Jamaica. In the hours before takeoff, some of those due to be onboard told the Guardian about what had been happening.
Tony Brook, 48, who has five children and has lived in the UK for 28 years, was among those given a last-minute reprieve. He said he could see from a window at the detention centre where he was held other men being taken out one by one. “There’s a big grey van parked up outside,” he said. “I can see some of the men – there’s Elvis and Troy and Noel and Joseph.”
Rupert Smith was not taken at the same time as others and began to relax thinking he had been granted a reprieve. “This waiting is worse than being on death row,” he said. Then at 11.34pm he sent a text: “They taking me now.” That was his last contact with the Guardian.
Junior Kerr was taken in a van by himself to the plane. He said in a phone call: “I don’t know why I’m being taken by myself. They’ve taken my coat away from me and I’m freezing cold. Please take the collar numbers of the escorts and complain for me.” He said he was later given his coat back.
One man who had been in Colnbrook detention centre called sounding puzzled. “There are 10 to 15 of us taken in handcuffs on to a coach,” he whispered. “We thought we’d been saved because of the legal challenge about the phones . We don’t understand what’s happening.” It is not known whether they boarded the flight or not.
Politicians and campaigners raised concerns about the deportations but on Tuesday morning the Home Office was bullish. A spokeswoman said: “We make no apology for trying to protect the public from serious, violent and persistent foreign national offenders. The court ruling [about mobile phone access] does not apply to all of the foreign national offenders due to be deported and we have therefore proceeded with the flight.”
Many of those earmarked for the flight had committed just one offence, typically GBH or a drugs offence, often during their teenage years.
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