The UK Home Office faced heavy criticism after a recent flight to Jamaica to return deportees to their homeland — took off with just seven people onboard.
According to The Guardian, the flight cost taxpayers about £300,000 (over $400,000.) The flight basically cost the government an average of £43,000 (almost $60,000) per passenger.
The Home Office has come under increasing pressure from justice groups and government officials to halt deportations amid the Covid-19 pandemic. The Jamaican government also expressed objections to deportations at this time. The Jamaican high commissioner even sent a letter to the Home Office just hours before the Jamaicans were to be collected from detention centers, calling for the flights to be delayed.
However, the Home Office offered Jamaica assurances. The department insisted that everyone scheduled to fly had a negative PCR test.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We only ever return those with no legal right to remain in the UK, including foreign national offenders. Those being deported will have been provided with the opportunity to raise claims prior to their deportation, including human rights claims, and no one on the flight will be a British citizen, British national or a member of the Windrush generation.
“The length of time a person has lived in the UK, as well as the strength of their social, cultural and family ties, are factors considered when determining any article 8 claim and whether there are very compelling circumstances which satisfy the requirements of the immigration rules.”
Last year, the Home Office faced backlash after one of 13 Jamaican prisoners deported to the island tested positive for the virus.
“We make no apology for seeking to remove dangerous foreign criminals to keep our communities safe,” a spokesperson for the government agency said at the time.
The spokesperson continued, “Each week we remove foreign criminals from the UK to different countries who have no right to be here, this flight is no different and the people being detained for this flight include convicted murderers and rapists. We completely reject claims that this flight is not Covid-compliant or poses an exceptional risk – all individuals will be assessed by a healthcare professional before they leave the immigration removal centre, which will include a temperature check, and all will be tested and have access to quarantine accommodation upon their arrival into Jamaica.”