Are the UK’s deportation actions racist?

Deportations to the Caribbean have always been a controversial topic – mostly down to the Windrush scandal. These flights to Jamaica specifically have been branded as “racist” by various politicians and other legal professionals such as Miranda Grell (A barrister and former Labour Party councillor) and they demand that these flights are cancelled and that the laws made by a Labour government in 2007 be adapted or scrapped. Despite the method of how someone is determined to be deported being a critical area to debate and get right, the notion that these flights are being made on the pure basis of racism is baseless and divisive.

On Wednesday the 7th of December, 13 out of 50 Jamaican nationals were deported to Jamaica. All 13 of those on the flight were violent criminals who had or were serving sentences longer than a year; which is in line with the UK’s Borders Act 2007. To make the assumption that these deportations are racist, there must be some figures behind the claim to show a clear disparity with how Jamaican nationals or people of Jamaican decent are treated compared to other nationalities. In 2019, the UK government enforced the deportation of 7895 people – 55 of the populous were to Jamaica. In 2020 (the last deportation flight was on the 7th of December), 5208 people were enforced to be deported by the UK government – 33 of the populous were to Jamaica. Over the past two years, the data shows that less than 1% of all deportations were to Jamaica or the Caribbean. The vast majority of deportations were to European countries. This does not suggest mistreatment or racism towards a particular group of people.

MPs are also concerned for the safety of people on these flights to Jamaica during this pandemic as “black people are already at an increased risk of contracting coronavirus.” Again, this claim is made on the basis of racism and discrimination towards ethnic minorities. Earlier this year, the BBC published an article exploring why blacks were more likely to contract coronavirus. In this article, not one point relates to biology, it is all centred around societal variables such as cramped living spaces at home, living in large cities where the virus is more prevalent and that they make up 14% of all key workers who are more exposed to the virus in the first place. On this analysis, it seems odd that someone who has either come from prison or in a detention centre, is at an increased risk of contracting covid-19 on a deportation flight compared to being out and more exposed to the virus. In addition to this, the UK government had to seek authorisation of these flights from the supreme court to assess whether there were suitable safety measures in place during an unprecedented period in time. The Supreme Court ruled that the conditions and methods of transportation met the safety requirements for Covid-19. Yet again, this does not suggest that the UK government has subjected a minority of individuals of the same group to harsher and inhumane treatment.

It seems to be common in the last few years to brand actions as racist on very little basis. The mention of racism instantaneously tarnishes the view of the accused before a debate is able to be had. This is the true reason for the racist claims. It is easy to call these actions racist as opposition are linking these events to the issues surrounding the Windrush Generation. The people who are being deported have committed various crimes and, through the process, can not prove in any way that they are British citizens. There is evidence that the process does work, although debated on the quality and effectiveness, as 37 of the 50 scheduled to be deported to Jamaica on the 7th of December were not on the grounds that there was evidence and cause to not deport them whether it be through evidence or appeals.

Clearly, the issues surrounding the Windrush scandal and the people impacted by past governmental mistakes needs to be addressed and managed in the proper way to maintain family units (a big contributor for avoiding poverty) and prevent children becoming vulnerable. However, it is not acceptable to label actions of an opposition party as racist without any basis for the claim. This only polarises an already politically divided country. Screaming racism only slows the process of solving the core issues as the accused party have to try and prove the innocence and legalities of their actions.

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