Plane on a runway. Photo: Public domain. Plane on a runway. Photo: Public domain.

Despite the furore over the Windrush scandal last year the Tories show no signs of scaling back their racist deportation policies, argues Sean Ledwith

As the country is distracted by the unfolding shambles of Theresa May’s handling of Brexit, her government this week took the opportunity to demonstrate that its cold-hearted core remains intact. On Wednesday, 35 people with criminal records were deported on a flight from Birmingham Airport to Jamaica. The government was originally intending to send an additional 15 individuals but eleventh-hour reprieves were granted after legal appeals were upheld. Lawyers speaking on behalf of the 15 commented that it was perfectly feasible others on board the flight could have avoided deportation if there had been time to process their applications.

Predictably, Home Secretary Sajid Javid was keen to get the flight in the air at the earliest opportunity. Other detainees at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre reported hearing screams as inmates were dragged from their cells on Wednesday morning. Labour MP David Lammy rightly denounced the action as inhumane and irresponsible, especially in light of last year’s Windrush scandal in which the same government department was exposed for falsely questioning the status of scores of black British citizens, some of whom had never set foot in the West Indies. 11 people involved in that bungled process lost their lives in ways that can be connected back to their treatment at the hands of the Home Office.

Dog-whistle deportation

Speaking in Parliament the day before the deportations, Lammy noted the operation was a

shocking indictment of your government’s pandering to a far-right racism, sham immigration targets and a dog-whistle to the right-wing press…in this country black lives matter less.

Lammy also noted this week’s deportations are particularly insensitive and shameful in light of the fact the government is still awaiting the outcome of its own investigation into last year’s scandal, known as the Windrush Lessons Learnt Review. The impetuous actions of the Home Secretary – no doubt with the approval of his predecessor in the post, the PM herself – indicate this government does not intend to learn anything about dodgy deportations. It also proves the infamous ‘hostile environment’ cultivated by May herself at the Home Office remains a toxic influence on immigration policy.

Cynicism of the state

Among those reprieved was former British soldier and father-of-five, Twane Morgan. He participated in two tours of active service in Afghanistan in 2007 and was discharged from the army with PTSD. His mental health situation at the time meant he was in no state to complete his application for British citizenship. Eight years ago, he was sentenced to six years imprisonment for defending himself after being attacked with a hammer. His sentence was ultimately reduced to three years and has now been completed. Almost 100 000 people have signed a petition demanding Morgan’s deportation be permanently scrapped. Aside from anything else, his case exposes the cynicism of the British state and its callous disregard for those who fight its unnecessary wars.

Another of the lucky 15 is Manchester DJ, Owen Haisley. He has lived in the UK since he was 4 years old and was granted indefinite leave to reside here when he was 11. Haisley has already completed his one-year sentence for assault. Fortunately, he also had the backing of his local Labour MP and a high profile online campaign. These are only two examples of individuals who would have been ejected from the UK without good cause if the Home Office had its way. It is very possible there were individuals on the Wednesday morning flight whose situations are similar to Morgan and Haisley but unfortunately found themselves being forced on-board due to the callousness of those running the Home Office. In the past these type of deportations have involved the detainees being shackled for the entire flight.

Tories on manoeuvres

Sajid Javid’s heartless attitude in this case is possibly explained by the sordid speculation in Tory ranks about who is best placed in the cabinet to replace May when she steps down as PM. At the end of last year, Javid laughably declared a major incident when 12 Syrian refugees were spotted in a rubber boat in the English Channel! Of course, one of the other contenders is Amber Rudd who was disgracefully restored to the cabinet as Work and Pensions Secretary after presiding over the Windrush scandal. Being seen to hammer vulnerable non-white people is evidently a good career move for wannabee Tory leaders.

Sean Ledwith

Sean Ledwith is a Counterfire member and Lecturer in History at York College, where he is also UCU branch negotiator. Sean is also a regular contributor to Marx and Philosophy Review of Books and Culture Matters