Home secretary hit out at ‘do-gooding celebrities’ who tried to stop recent deportation flight
Windrush victims today criticised comments made by Priti Patel in a newspaper article about the UK’s most recent deportation flight, with one man saying Ms Patel “has no empathy for people like me”.
Campaigners penned a letter to the Home Office and said Ms Patel’s remarks were “ill-judged and ill-informed” – they also accused her of using the Windrush name to score political points.
They wrote: “We, the leading Windrush campaigners and organisations, cosigned the same letter as other leading black figures – many of whom have parents and grandparents of the Windrush generation – to express our significant concerns with her mass deportation flight to Jamaica.”
Signatories included Natalie Barnes, whose mother Paulette Wilson was erroneously detained and threatened with deportation, and Anthony Bryan, who was also wrongly held for five weeks, before being booked on to a flight “home” to Jamaica despite not having been there in more than 50 years. Mr Bryan told reporters today: “You can’t trust the Home Office to do the right thing.”
Mr Bryan, 62, arrived in the UK as a child in 1965 on his brother’s passport. He said he was “upset and angry” over the comments, and that these criminals were “not Jamaica’s problem” because they have grown up in the UK.
“How long have some of these Jamaicans been here? They learned all them [crimes] here,” he said. “I think it’s wrong, Jamaica didn’t turn them into rapists and murderers.”
The uproar came after a Daily Mail article, which was published on Friday, quoted the home secretary as hitting out at more than 80 “do-gooding celebrities” who called for the cancellation of a deportation flight to Jamaica, scheduled to transport a dozen convicted criminals.
These so-called “do-gooders” said they were concerned over the unlawful removal of people who have the right to remain in the UK. The latest flight, which departed on Wednesday morning, took 13 men to Jamaica while a team of lawyers won 23 others a reprieve after the government acknowledged some may have been victims of modern slavery.
According to Press Association (PA), the Home Office would not say whether any of the 36 individuals had immediate relatives who were from the Windrush generation.
Ms Patel told the Mail that “the Windrush scandal is a stain on our country’s history”, adding that their “generation made an enormous contribution to our country and were wronged by successive governments”.
However, the minister went on to disparage “ill-informed Labour politicians and do-gooding celebrities attempting to conflate the victims of Windrush with these vile criminals set for deportation is not only misjudged and upsetting but deeply offensive”.
She also said the government would “never” be seen to “stand in solidarity with rapists and murderers” and was “committed to removing these foreign criminals from our country”.
Several Windrush victims, whose lives were turned upside down when they were wrongly targeted by the Home Office, spoke out today and labelled Ms Patel’s apparent show of solidarity with them as “deeply insulting and patronising”.
Glenda Caesar, 59, who lost her job of 20 years as an NHS GP administrator when the Home Office decided she had no right to work in the UK, told PA: “She hasn’t taken the time to meet with us or speak with us. How can she know what’s deeply offensive for us?”
Ms Caesar, a mother-of-four from Hackney, east London, who arrived in the UK from Dominica legally in 1961 when she was three months old, said: “She’s never met us. She doesn’t know how we feel.”
Meanwhile, Michael Braithwaite, 68, who arrived from Barbados as a child in 1961, lost his job as a special needs teaching assistant for not having an up-to-date identity document two years ago.
The father-of-three, from Camden, north London, told PA: “I’ve listened to her speak and I think she has no empathy for people like me. I don’t know if she realises, or the people who work for her realise, who those people are on the plane. They should talk to people like me.”
Ms Patel referred to those targeted for deportation as “rapists and murderers”, but a solicitor at McKenzie Beute and Pope, Jacqueline McKenzie, who has worked across multiple Windrush cases, said not all of them were serious offenders, and the original list of names for proposed deportation had included many people who had been in the UK since childhood.
She revealed that there were people listed who are “victims of grooming, people who have been in care, people with very disaffected lives”.
Another man, 65-year-old Ewaldo Romeo, said it made no sense to send criminals back to a country which has had “nothing to do with [their] upbringing”.
Mr Romeo arrived in England in 1959 from Antigua and was born British before his country gained independence, yet he was still deemed an illegal immigrant after he lost his passport in 2005.
Mr Romeo, from Edmonton, called the deportation process a “farce” and said it was “ridiculous” to “let [people] serve their sentence here and then deport them”.
The Daily Mail and Home Office are yet to officially comment on the slew of backlash against the article.