A Home Office minister has denied that deporting foreign national offenders is discriminatory as opposition MPs called for a charter flight to Jamaica this week to be halted.
Chris Philp told the House of Commons that there was “no element of discrimination whatsoever” in the policy which stipulates that anyone in the UK who is not a British citizen should be deported if they are sentenced to 12 months or more in jail, and that it applied to French and Spanish nationals just as much as individuals from Jamaica.
It comes as up to 50 Jamaican nationals, many of whom have lived in Britain for decades and have British children, are due to be removed from the country on Wednesday.
In an urgent question, Labour MP Bell Ribeiro-Addy said the decision to remove foreign nationals on mass deportation flights amounted to “double jeopardy, when those who have committed lesser offences have already served their custodial sentence”.
She went on to ask: “Does he recognise the message that it sends about the consequences of being a white offender or being a black offender given the racial disparities in sentencing?“
In response, Mr Philp told the House of Commons: ”Over the last year of the 5,800 people who have been removed only 33 have been of Jamaican nationality. She mentioned black vs white. She was implying, she was insinuating in her question, there was some element of underlying racism in this.
“I have pointed out already that the majority of people, the vast majority of people, who are removed or have been removed this year have been removed to European countries.”
The minister did not make clear whether these included the large numbers of asylum seekers who have been returned to EU countries under the Dublin Regulations this year.
Ms Bell Ribeiro-Addy asked whether the Home Office had considered the impact of deporting dozens of Jamaican nationals this week on their 31 children who live in the UK and will be left without their fathers – to which the minister did not respond.
She added: “The Home Office has got it wrong again and again on immigration, so will it think again, halt the deportation flight and finally end the illegal hostile environment?”
Shadow immigration minister Holly Lynch said Labour had “no faith” that the government “has done its due diligence” in relation to those on the flight.
She added: “Of course, we recognise that those who engage in violent and criminal acts must face justice, but we also hear that at least one person on that flight has a Windrush generation grandfather.”
My Philp claimed the flight was about “criminality not nationality” and had “nothing to do with the terrible wrongs faced by the Windrush generation”.
It comes after the UK’s equalities watchdog found last week that the “hostile environment” measures that caused the Windrush scandal broke the law and amounted to a failure by the Home Office in its “legal duties” towards black Britons.
The Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) said ministers had failed to listen properly to protests from members of the Windrush generation, “even as the severe effects of hostile environment policies began to emerge”.