Statement on deportations to Jamaica
February 12, 2020
This week the Home Office deported 17 people to Jamaica. Another 25 deportations were stopped following a court order. All these men had Jamaican nationality, had spent time in prison, and were then being held in immigration detention centres. At Music In Detention we know these centres well, from 15 years’ work with people detained in them.
The Government’s policy is to deport foreign nationals with sentences of a year or more. Its statements emphasise the most serious offences and assert it is protecting the public. Meanwhile extensive news coverage has shown that these men’s offences and sentences vary greatly in seriousness, while many have lived in the UK since childhood. They are part of the community, they have British partners, they care for young children and aging parents. Their families were the Windrush generation.
Music In Detention recognises that the fundamental issue here is not what crimes people have committed, but who belongs in this society. Since the most serious offences do not bring deportation for people recognised as British, we have to ask whether an officially designated, all-or-nothing nationality is enough to decide who gets a second chance. What about family life and history, contribution to society, who you are connected to, where your home is?
We work at this human level, with all its complexity and pain. We create music and lyrics with people held in UK detention centres for days or decades. All defined as foreign. And with nearby local residents, with troubles of their own. They all have the right to be heard. Granting this to each other brings a depth of understanding which, we believe, makes a stronger basis for considered solutions to these complex issues.
A national appeal for Music In Detention, prepared before this story broke and to be broadcast on Sunday on BBC Radio 4, tells the story of Leroy, a detainee with Jamaican nationality, facing the prospect of separation from his young child. Every story matters, and Leroy’s is one of thousands.