Home Secretary Priti Patel has described as “deeply offensive” comments from campaigners who evoked the Windrush scandal in fighting the deportation of 36 convicted criminals to Jamaica.
Several celebrities and Labour MPs lobbied against the deportations, which the Government has defended as the removal of criminals with no right to be in the UK.
Thirteen prisoners were deported to Jamaica in a flight on Wednesday, but lawyers successfully moved to have another 23 removed from the aircraft’s passenger list, with their cases now under review.
Model Naomi Campbell and actress Thandie Newton were among more than 90 high profile figures who signed an open letter last week to several airlines calling on them to refuse to provide deportation flights for the prisoners.
The letter said in part: “Until justice has been delivered for all Commonwealth Windrush victims, any deportations to Commonwealth countries risk further unlawful removals of Windrush generation members or Windrush descendants who may have the right to remain in the UK but do not yet have the required paperwork.”
Labour’s immigration spokesman Holly Lynch has led MPs’ opposition to the deportations, telling the Commons on Monday the full consequences of the Windrush scandal had not yet been established.
She added: “With that in mind, what assessment has been made to ensure that none of those scheduled to be on the flight are eligible under the Windrush scheme, or have been affected by the wider immigration injustices that impacted the victims of the Windrush scandal?”
Speaking to the Daily Mail, the Home Secretary was heavily critical of the campaigners trying to link the cases of the “vile criminals” scheduled for deportation to the Windrush scandal.
“The Windrush scandal is a stain on our country’s history,’ she said. “That generation made an enormous contribution to our country and were wronged by successive governments.
“To see ill-informed Labour politicians and do-gooding celebrities attempting to conflate the victims of Windrush with these vile criminals set for deportation is not only misjudged and upsetting but deeply offensive.”
Miss Patel said the Government would “never stand in solidarity with rapists and murderers” and was “committed to removing these foreign criminals from our country” as they had violated British laws and had no right be remain in the country.
The Windrush scandal began to emerge in 2017, revealing Caribbean migrants with a right to live in the UK were wrongfully detained or expelled.
The Home Office insisted none of the offenders amid the 36 Jamaican individuals were eligible for the Windrush compensation scheme. But it would not say whether any had immediate relatives who were from the Windrush generation.
The department said all 36 originally due to be on board the flight were Jamaican citizens and none had been born in the UK. It would not say whether any had lived in the country since they were children.
Chris Philp, minister for immigration compliance, said the flight which left the UK in the early hours of Wednesday had removed 13 “serious foreign criminals”.
Some of the other Jamaicans due to be on board were granted a last-minute reprieve after fresh asylum and modern slavery claims were made.