“I’ll Have to Bring My Kids Up Over Skype” – Dad Being Sent Back To Jamaica On ‘Convict flight’ After Living in UK Since 4
Owen Haisley will leave behind three children after his leave to remain was taken off him
He is one of fifty people facing deportation to Jamaica this week.
Owen Haisley, 45, came to the UK from the former British colony when he was four in 1977 and was given the right to stay here. But after serving a short sentence for assault his status has been ripped up.
The former youth worker is one of fifty people with Jamaican roots who are due to be deported on Wednesday, and will leave three kids behind if it goes ahead.
The charter flight has been dubbed ‘a convict flight’ by Jamaican national newspaper, The Gleaner, because all of the passengers are alleged to have committed offences in the past.
Greater Manchester mayor Andy Burnham, and nightlife tsar Sacha Lord, have both tweeted in support of Owen’s case, with Mr Burnham saying he intends to write to the Home Secretary about it.
Owen has no family left in Jamaica and hasn’t set foot on the island in over forty years. But on the Friday before last he was arrested.
He was then carted off to a holding facility near Heathrow, with only the clothes on his back with him.
Speaking from a detention centre where he is being held, Owen told the M.E.N.: “I hold my hands up, I have made mistakes but I have gone to prison, done my time for it, done rehabilitation and restorative justice, and they say I can’t have a second chance.
“Why do I have to be sent to another country and bring my children up on Skype?”
Owen Haisley moved to the UK from the Caribbean with his mum, a nurse, in 1977, and was given leave to remain with no restrictions.
In 2015 he was convicted of a domestic assault and spent a year behind bars at HMP Risley.
It was at this point that Owen’s problems with immigration officials began as he was told he would need to apply for the right to remain in the UK.
Following a three-year battle with the Home Office, Owen was arrested and detained while signing on at a immigration reporting centre in Salford on January 25.
He has been told he’s due to board a plane with another 49 people on Wednesday which will deport them to Jamaica.
Owen, whose great aunt is part of the Windrush generation, says he is devastated at the thought of being separated from his young children.
“Offenders with a British passport can repeatedly offend and be given another chance. I’m not a repeat offender.”
After working at Afflecks Palace Owen became well known as a drum and bass and jungle DJ and MC and had residences at city centre nightclubs such as Vogue, Dry Bar and Music Box.
He spent 12 years teaching music workshops to young people as part of the organisation Greater Manchester Music Action Zone and most recently worked as a mobile phone executive.
He has worked legally with the National Insurance number he was given when he was 16 and paid taxes.
After spending time in London as a child, he moved to Manchester thirty years ago to live with his great aunt, who is part of the Windrush.
The dad, who holds a Jamaican passport but says he feels ‘more Mancunian than Jamaican’, says his problems with immigration officials started when he was convicted.
He says he was originally told he had overstayed in the UK and a deportation order was issued in August 2016.
After various appeals to the Home Office over the last three years he was detained and was due to be deported on a charter flight to Jamaica last April, days after the Windrush scandal broke.
But the flight was cancelled for reasons the Home Office didn’t disclose.
Owen returned to Manchester but was detained again last week while signing on at a Home Office centre in Salford.
He was taken to Manchester Central police station and held before being taken to Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre. Owen has been at Harmondsworth immigration centre, in Middlesex, since last Sunday.
“It’s like a prison,” he says. “We’re in cells and there’s a regime a bit like a prison regime. It’s cold, the food is not that great and we’re restricted to using things like internet.”
“They’ve got this flight set up for Wednesday and I think they will give everyone decisions on their status that day and we won’t be able to stop it,” Owen says.
“I’ve not been back to Jamaica since I left as a kid. I have been over here for a long time, I don’t know anyone over there.
“Everyone got the impression of it’s a nice place as a tourist. For someone being deported you will be right in the middle of things. Where will I live and how will I survive financially?
“We have been told 50 of us will be put on a flight accompanied by 190 enforcement officers will sit with us and Jamaican police will meet us and put us into a holding place. Anyone of interest to the Jamaican police will be held and everyone else will be let go.”
Owen admits that he never thought to apply for a British passport because he had lived and worked in the country for so long without a problem – a decision he now regrets.
He says he is worried about returning to a country he hasn’t set foot in since he was a young child with no family or friends to lean on.
“My children need me,” he says. “I’ve been told they can either travel over and see me or I have got to keep in touch via Skype.
“The Home Office say because of my criminality they want to deport me.”
He added: “I just wanna be given a second chance like everyone else that does a crime and serves time.
“I came over here legally. I’ve lost it all because of a 12 month imprisonment.”
Owen says he is also worried how the arrival of the flight will be received in Jamaica after hitting the headlines.
“It’s gone out in the Gleaner. We have been set as targets. People have this impression that if you’re from England you have lots of money. But they won’t even give you a change of clothing here”, he said.
“The Home Office is issuing booklets on ‘how to be Jamaican’. I’ve seen the posters in the detention centres.”
Friends of Owen have started a petition calling on MPs to intervene in his case in the hope they can persuade the Home Office to cancel his deportation.
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has shared the petition on his Twitter page and has promised to write to the Home Secretary about the case.
Sharing the petition on Twitter, Greater Manchester Night Time Economy Adviser Sacha Lord said: “How is this right? Owens been part of the scene for as long as I have. Really decent guy…”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK, like many other countries, uses charter flights to return people to their country of origin where they no longer have a right to remain.
“The majority of those being returned are returned on scheduled, commercial flights but this isn’t always an option, especially where the individual may be a foreign national offender.”
In 2015, then Prime Minister David Cameron offered to fund a new prison in Jamaica, on the basis that a number of Jamaicans in UK jails would be repatriated six months before the end of their sentences.
But Jamaica, which has never had an apology or a penny in reparations for the years of forced unpaid labour, torture, rape, killings and family separations inflicted on its people by British slave owners between the 17th and 19th centuries, rejected the offer.