A Leeds man who was due to board a deportation flight to Jamaica has been handed a lifeline with just hours to spare.
Damion Thompson, from Chapel Allerton, was detained on July 27 with no warning and has spent the past two weeks in various detention centres across the country.
The 43-year-old has lived in the UK for more than 20 years, but he was told he would be flown back to Jamaica at 1am this morning (Wednesday). However, a judge ruled he now has a right to a review.
His wife, Linda Rose, told LeedsLive how the entire family were frantically searching for answers less than 24 hours before he was due to be flown 4,500 miles away.
“We have been putting submissions in to the Home Office ever since he was detained, but we hadn’t heard anything,” she said.
“It left like we were being completely ignored. They didn’t even acknowledge our emails.
“I was on the phone to him as he was being removed from the cell [on Tuesday],” she added.
“It was really frightening. You could hear the alarm going off in the background.
“I could hear him trying to explain it [to the guards], but Damion said they were in riot gear to take him away.”
Shortly before Damion was due to be transported to Stansted Airport, he was granted papers that will allow him to temporarily stay in the UK, although he could still be flown back to Jamaica this month.
A spokesperson for Home Office said that the charter flight was made up of passengers “who broke our laws, abused our hospitality, and have no place in our society”.
Detention Action have long since campaigned for the rights of people on charter flights though.
More than 90 people were due to be on the flight from Stansted, but just seven detainees were eventually flown to Jamaica on the government-funded charter flight.
“That gives you the scale of this operation,” said director, Bella Sankey.
“It is completely arbitrary who was on that flight and who was not.”
The not-for-profit organisation claims that several more charter flights are being prepared in the coming weeks, with all of them scheduled for “black Commonwealth countries”.
“What the Home Office is doing can only be described as an abomination,” added Ms Sankey.
“It is just chaos and a real cowboy operation.
“It is truly the most brutal process that is hidden from view.”
In response, a spokesperson for the Home Office said: “These individuals are responsible for some of most appalling crimes – rape, assault, grievous bodily harm, drug offences, and sexual assault of children.
“They have violated our laws and values and have left their victims living with the scars of the crimes that took place against them.
“The British people should be in no doubt of my determination to remove these criminals to protect both the victims of their crimes and the public. The government uses every means to continue to remove foreign nationals who have committed crimes against our citizens.”
More than 75 charter flights have taken place since April 2020 and others are planned.
After spending 14 months in prison almost 10 years ago for possession of a controlled drug and possession of criminal property, Damion has routinely attended his local police station every fortnight, as per the terms of his immigration bail.
Linda is adamant his conviction “taught him a lesson” and he has not reoffended since, but she is all too aware that the eleventh-hour reprieve may only be a temporary victory for the family.
“He is now in limbo at the removal centre,” said Linda, who is still hoping to celebrate her 19th wedding anniversary with Damion at the end of August.
“All it means is that he is not going on that particular flight, but we just want a review of his new information.”
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A Home Office spokesperson added that everyone on the 1am flight was a Jamaican national and no one on the plane was born in the UK.
The government has come under criticism in recent years for its handling of the Windrush scandal, where people were wrongly detained, denied legal rights and in some cases deported from the UK.
The Home Office confirmed that “extensive checks” were carried out ahead of Wednesday morning’s flight, but “none of those deported were British Citizens, British Nationals or members of the Windrush generation”.
Recently, Lorenzo Hoyte spoke out about the government’s £100,000 Windrush compensation payout.
The 64-year-old moved to Leeds from Barbados when he was 10 years old, but it was only in 2018 when he was recognised as a British citizen.
He has scoffed at the six-figure compensation fee and demanded an audience with Ms Patel.
He said: “I want her to hear my story, to sit down and listen about how I’ve had to live my life for 40 years and right my wrongs. She hasn’t got a clue how we suffered.”
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