Naomi Campbell, Thandie Newton And More 'Call' On Airlines To Stop Jamaica Deportation Flight

Ata Owaji Victor
·4-min read
Photo credit: Getty Images
Photo credit: Getty Images

From ELLE

Naomi Campbell and Thandie Newton are among several A-list celebrities and activists reportedly leading calls for airlines to halt deportation flights to Jamaica from the UK.

The Guardian reports that 82 Black public figures including the likes of historian David Olusoga, actress Naomie Harris, and Booker Prize-winning author Bernardine Evaristo have written an open letter to six airlines known to have worked on deportation charter flights.

The publication states that in the letter the group implore the airlines not to carry up to 50 people - many of whom are believed to have been in the UK since childhood - that the Home Office is believed to want to deport next week. It is not yet known which airlines the Home Office has called on.

The deportation flight, reportedly scheduled to depart on December 2 would result in the separation of at least 31 families, according to immigrant rights organisation Movement for Justice (MFJ).

The signatories also call on the pause of deportation flights to Commonwealth countries for the foreseeable future, with author Afua Hirsh urging her 108,000 Twitter followers to sign a petition related to their plea.

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'We have grounds to believe that one of your firms may be planning to operate the flight planned for 2nd December,' a segment of the letter reads, per the Guardian. 'There are a number of important reasons why such flights are wholly inappropriate at this time and risk the unlawful and wrongful removal of people who have the right to remain in the UK.'

Signatories also reportedly raised concerns about the possibility of victims of trafficking.

'The UK’s system for identifying victims of trafficking is in disarray, meaning that the government frequently seeks to deport people whose offences occurred by reason of their trafficking or forced labour,' a excerpt from the letter reads.

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The letter include a heartfelt plea for consideration and compassion from airlines after a turbulent year, noting: 'In an already challenging festive period … we ask you to reflect on whether the operation of this flight would comply with your corporate social responsibility values.'

The Guardian reports the signatories claim that a deportation flight to Jamaica in February this year carried a man who was 'the a grandson of a woman who arrived on the HMT Empire Windrush and is still seeking to have his deportation order revoked'.

The campaigners also are believed to have noted the recent resignation of Alexandra Ankrah, the most senior black civil servant working on the Windrush compensation scheme. At the time of her resignation, Ankrah said that she had raised concerns to her seniors about what she believed to be systematic racism within the scheme.

'It’s not just racism. It is an unwillingness to look with any curiosity or genuine concern at the situation of victims, many of whom were elderly and unwell,' she said, per the Guardian.

The Home Office has rejected any suggestion that the scheme was discriminatory.

Photo credit: Guy Smallman - Getty Images
Photo credit: Guy Smallman - Getty Images

In response to the letter, a Home Office spokeswoman told the PA news agency, per the publication: '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.'

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Calls for airlines to cease cooperation with the Home Office are not unfounded.

In June 2018, Virgin Airlines announced that it would no longer be assisting the Home Office to deport people in the wake of the 2018 Windrush Scandal. The airline stated at the time that it had made the decision 'in the best interest of our customers and people, and is in keeping with our values as a company'.

In response, a Home Office spokesperson reportedly stated: 'We do not comment on operational matters', noting that the department 'seeks to develop strong working relationships with our partners and strives to work collaboratively with air carriers to return those who are in the UK illegally'.

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