A UK deportation flight to Jamaica took off with just seven of the 112 people expected to be onboard as a result of “last-minute claims” facilitated by lawyers and MPs, the government has said.
In a statement to the House of Commons on May 18, Home Office minister Tom Pursglove said the individuals who were due to be deported on this flight were foreign criminals.
He said: “The offences committed by the individuals on this flight include rape of a minor, sexual assault against children, firearms offences, dealing and importing controlled drugs, and other violent crime, such as actual bodily harm. Between them they had a combined total of 58 convictions for 127 offences.”
According to the minister, though the flight originally had 112 individuals on it, in the end only seven left the UK on that flight.
He blamed immigration lawyers and MPs for the failure to deport the remaining foreign offenders.
“What we have seen over the last 24 hours is more last-minute claims facilitated by specialist immigration law firms, as well as representations from MPs to stop this flight from leaving,” he said.
In response to the criticism, Labour’s shadow Home Office minister Stephen Kinnock said, “The Home Office must deport dangerous foreign criminals who have no right to be in our country and who should be returned to the country of their citizenship.”
But he added, “The Home Office also has a responsibility to get its deportation decisions right.”
Conservative MPs criticised Labour and the Scottish National Party (SNP) for allegedly supporting “lefty” immigration lawyers over the British public.
Jonathan Gullis, Conservative MP for Stoke-on-Trent North, said his constituents were “flabbergasted that the woke, wet, and wobbly lot opposite are on the side of their lefty woke warriors, who are making sure these rapists and paedophiles remain in this United Kingdom, rather than standing up for the British people and their safety.”
But SNP MP Anne McLaughlin said it was “childish in the extreme” for Tory MPs to blame the situation on what they call “lefty lawyers,” when they were only trying to “protect people according to the law.”
Pursglove acknowledged the importance of due legal process, but insisted that the system is being abused.
He said, “I of course think that it is right and proper that people have access to legal advice and of course the legal profession, and due process is absolutely crucial to ensuring that these matters are handled sensitively and appropriately and correctly in accordance with the law, but what we can’t continue to have is this completely unbalanced situation where we do see abuses of the system.”