A couple of days ago a plane carrying 17 Jamaican-born men departed from the UK for Jamaica. This was because the government decided that all of those Jamaican-born men on board the plane needed to be deported, as at one point they had all respectively been convicted of a crime and given prison sentences of at least 12 months. This is not the first time a deportation of this nature has taken place. A further 25 people were due to be on said plane but this was halted as not long before the Court of Appeal realised that those individuals has been denied full access to legal aid. Not surprising since those involved will have the most limited access to justice.

Those on board have lived in the UK for the large majority of their lives, they consider themselves British and the UK their home. Most have families from which they are being separated. These people do not officially hold British citizenship, hence why the government want to deport them – but it must be noted that many people who live here do not hold British citizenship. Official British citizenship is not (and should not be) what entirely constitutes the ability to reside in the UK. The government is breaching their article 8 right to family life.

This is not the first time that the government has displayed its opinion that those with a criminal record thereby fall below the standard of human rights.

An example of such UK legal disregard for human rights:

For those who don’t know, the UK willingly CHOSE to be a party to the European Convention of Human Rights. It opted into the concept of making sure its laws abide with basic human rights. Article 3 of said convention is the human right to free elections, and the free expression of the people:

“The High Contracting Parties undertake to hold free elections at reasonable intervals by secret ballot, under conditions which will ensure the free expression of the opinion of the people in the choice of the legislature”

Yet section 3 of the UK’s Representation of the People Act 1983 goes something like this:

“A convicted person during the time that he is detained in a penal institution in pursuance of his sentence ... is legally incapable of voting at any parliamentary or local election.”

This law disenfranchises EVERYONE with a prison sentence regardless of length of time or level of offence, and so is therefore in violation of human rights, and yet is sitting pretty as part of our current law. In order to make things that much better, it is not actually expressly made clear to prisoners upon conviction that by breaking the law their right to vote is fortified. Nor is it expressly made clear to prisoners originally from another country that by breaking the law they could be deported.

A writer from The Telegraph recently said “Priti Patel's decision to stand by a planned deportation is a welcome move after years of her predecessors prioritising criminals' human rights over those of their victims”.[1] Somehow holding the view that human rights is some sort of ranking game where certain people are more deserving of human rights than others?

There is a reason why the first line of the Convention of Human Rights states:

“The High Contracting Parties shall secure to everyone within their jurisdiction the rights and freedoms defined in Section I of this Convention.”

I am not saying that some of the people who were deported did not do despicable things (more on that in a second), or that they should be forgiven for those things, but issues will always arise when you become selective with human rights. And when the people who have fallen below the apparent standard of someone to whom human rights are applicable are from the Caribbean, undoubted prejudice is shown. It’s not about justifying crimes or moral out wrong it’s about the disgusting disproportionality. It is about what is fair. We live in a world where prison is the punishment for crime. That is why it exists. The denying of human rights is not and should not be punishment for crime. Otherwise the UK are no better than criminals.

This deportation is also being used to enforce the negative connotation of immigrants. As Jeremy Corbyn pointed out in Wednesday’s PMQ’s, the media and the government have used the existence of serious offenders within the group to create the impression that all of the deportees are all serious offenders, making it seem that ‘immigrants’ are a problem. Everyone on the plane has been deemed as a serious offender because they have served a prison sentence of at least 1 year – someone on that plane served a year in prison for a non-violent drug offence and so is being deported. Some were undoubted victims of drug gangs, and so are being deported. One was convicted under the joint enterprise rule which was later stated as an unlawful means of determining guilt in the 2016 case R v Jogee, and so is being deported. Yet rapists go free in this country every day. (Statistics show that in 2017 only 3.3% of reported rapes ended in a criminal conviction, and on average only about 15% of sexual assaults are actually reported – so you can do the rough maths of how many people actually end up in prison).

Perhaps instead of deporting said offenders the government should work on fixing the structural issues which means ethnic minorities of certain socio-economic status often have higher crime rates.

In a speech justifying her decision of deportation, Priti Patel noted that the law allowing her to do this was brought in by a Labour government.

First of all: why say such a thing? Boris Johnson and Priti Patel have continually maintained the belief that what they are doing is the morally right decision – but then she goes on to appease her critics by seemingly blaming Labour? Secondly, the original law comes from the time of Gordon Brown’s government but the law that exists today for which they have relied on is a product of Theresa May’s stint as Home Secretary.

A brief history:

The UK Borders Act 2007 introduced automatic deportation for any foreign national criminal sentenced to more than 12 months. The main exception was if human rights would be breached, and judges allowed many cases (quite rightly) on human rights grounds where the criminal had close connections to the UK.

Theresa May (then home secretary) didn’t like this at all and wanted to put very narrow exceptions into law: the result was the Immigration Act 2014. On the surface, the act looks fairly just. The exceptions look fair: threat of deportation is alleviated by considerations of the level of offending and factors such as family life. However, the way the exceptions are interpreted by the Home Office and courts makes them pretty much impossible to satisfy. Any person who has committed a crime is argued by the Home Office not to be integrated into the UK, whether or not he or she has been brought up here. Any person who is healthy and has even the slightest ability to speak the relevant language is argued by the Home Office to be able to adapt and therefore integrate in the receiving country.

Law as a concept is not the issue here, law is a good thing that more often than not protects us in this world. The people who manipulate it and use it as a tool to push their own agenda are what gives people (justified) distrust of their legal system. We have seen the government get it wrong before, when they wrongly denied basic rights to the Windrush generation. They later apologised. Yet history continues to repeat itself.

  1. [1] https://www.telegraph.co.uk/women/politics/priti-patels-side-deportation-row-side/

Recent Posts

See All