The Government's continued mass deportation measures must stop, at the very least due to human rights breaches, but more so because of the damage to hundreds of families, writes Raoul Walawalker of the Immigration Advice Service.

When Priti Patel isn't announcing new measures to deter Channel crossings, mass deportation flights take the limelight, like the one that was scheduled to take up to 50 people to Jamaica in the early hours of Wednesday morning. All part of her plan to fix the 'broken' immigration system.

The flight was part of a summer season of planned deportation flights to different countries that include Ghana, Pakistan, Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Vietnam, flights which could include people being wrongly removed as well as sent to places where they could come to serious harm.

At of time writing, it was reported that at least 30 of the deportees had been removed from the flight after last minute legal interventions and after the Jamaican government itself had called for the controversial flight to be halted. Around 16 were still deported, according to news emerging at the time.

The restarted flights have alarmed people who believe in international human rights laws which the Home Office now regularly seems quite willing to flout unless challenged by last minute interventions, in a practice that ultimately seems driven by the government's relationship with the media and lobbies rather than genuine pressure either relating to crime or immigration. With a hard-right government in power, more closely aligned with the anti-immigration views of a section of the media than the previous Tory government, data by lobbies or a pundit like Nigel Farage gets little, if any scrutiny. A worry, given that their data may more often be reminiscent of the advertising of payday lenders than credible research.

Take the lobby Migration Watch's statistics on foreign criminals for example. It may read like a bullet-pointed press release ready to use, though possibly without noticing that its list of alarming findings also has as at least 30 small-print, footnoted clauses, such as the first, which states that the statistics include, among others, 'non-criminals, recalls, and fine defaulters… such people are not eligible for immigration action'.

In other words, a quote of alarming numbers which includes any configuration possible to distort a reader's access to an accurate perspective of the scale of the phenomena. But the press releases are irrespectively picked up and used by sympathetic right-wing papers.

In the meantime, newspapers like the Daily Mail will actively play their part in this area of political theatre designed for core, hard-right voter bases, with yesterday's coverage on the deportation flight being a case in point as well as textbook propaganda.

Knowing the tendency to simply scan headlines and top paragraphs, it yesterday managed, with impressive editing, to squeeze the words, "Rapists, child rapists, murderers, paedophiles, and a girl under 16," sometimes more than once, into a headline and first two paragraphs, as well as implying total absurdity in the decision of Labour MPs to describe mass deportations as a largely racist PR exercise.

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For those that read beyond the lurid details aimed at inciting angst and racism, Labour MP Diane Abbot's quote explained accurately why a move to deport the majority of the Jamaican deportees would be both unethical as well as in clear breach of human rights legislation. She states, "most have been convicted for non-violent drug offences and four got deportation orders for their first and only offence. They have all actually served the sentence for their crime. The deportation is by way of being a double jeopardy."

Her 'double jeopardy' comment refers to long-term criticism of policy dating back to the 2007 Borders Act, which to all purposes created a license to punish people twice: once for the crime, then additionally for the perpetrator's ethnicity. The Mail yesterday could have chosen (but didn't) to quote more background on this subject, which Abbot gave in a piece she wrote for Labour Outlook:

"The destination of the flight is worth noting for two reasons. The Home Office's own data reveals that people from Jamaica are disproportionately targeted for deportation… [and] it will be the fourth such flight to Jamaica since the Windrush scandal. It is as if the Tories have learnt nothing since deporting so many Commonwealth migrants who were actually legally entitled to be here."

Along with seeking to give overwhelming emphasis to the most serious crimes of a deportee, the Mail sought to emphasise the non-British nature of the deportees: "None of the 50 is a British citizen, but some have lived here since childhood."

More informatively, Abbot highlights: "All of the prospective deportees are long-term British residents. None of the prospective deportees have lived in this country for less than nineteen years. Most have lived in the UK for the greater part of their adult lives."

She adds: "If this deportation flight goes ahead at least twenty three British children will lose their fathers."

From the perspective of human rights, Abbot's comments on family life are especially pertinent given that legal protection of the deportees would likely be based on considerations of articles 3 and 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights – the right not to be put at risk of inhumane treatment, and the right to a family life.

The government's repeated lack of regard for these rights leading to repeated last minute intervention situations in what amounts to little more than a media spectacle, should be seriously worrying to all.

With Brexit technically completed, and immigration numbers to the UK now dropping sharply year-on-year by almost 80 per cent in the year to end March, the government doesn't have any evidential basis to defend scapegoating or cracking down on immigration to the point of inviting legal challenges over breached human rights law. Proceeding to malign lawyers (and the legal system) for protecting lives that would be the collateral damage of a flawed government that repeatedly pursues racist and populist measures shows it knows no other tune to play.

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