Why today’s deportations to Jamaica are nothing for the Home Secretary to be boastful about

2nd December 2020

There are many illiberal and misconceived things going on that a blog like this, which offers commentary and context on just one law and policy thing a day, cannot keep up.

But one especially brutal and unfortunate thing is to take place later today.

There is set to be a deportation flight from England to Jamaica, which will take place notwithstanding the ongoing covid pandemic and in the run-up to Christmas.

Those being deported are people with criminal convictions who have served their sentences but, because they are (in some cases only technically) foreign nationals, they are now to suffer this further sanction of the state.

The deportees include those with families and children in the United Kingdom – and so the Home Office are depriving children of parents and partners and other dependents of potential breadwinners.

The deportees include those who came to the United Kingdom as children and have no real connection with Jamaica.

One aspect of this deportation that is especially worrying and distasteful is the sheer glee that the current Home Secretary and it seems Home Office officials are taking in this exercise of sheer state power.

‘We make no apology…’ are the first four boastful words of the Home Office statement.

The Home Secretary herself is using this to make party political points.


There is no sense of ‘more in sorrow than…’ and that it is unfortunate but somehow must be done.

Instead, Home Office politicians and officials seem to be revelling in it, with the attitude of ‘look what we can do’.

They also appear to want as many legal interventions as possible, so that they can have the added bonus of pointing to meddlesome ‘activist’ lawyers.


The impression the affair gives is not one of reluctant necessity but that this is a propaganda stunt – and one which comprises detaining people, marching them in handcuffs, using coercive power to send them to countries that are not their homes, and inflicting damage to innocent children and families.

Again, during an emergency pandemic and in the run-up to Christmas.


The justification that the Home Office politicians and officials will give to themselves and others for this is that the criminals brought it upon themselves, and so the politicians and officials are absolved from any blame.

Yet this deflection is not convincing.

First, it is not justice to inflict double or disproportionate penalties – all because a crime has been committed, that does not mean ‘anything goes’ for the state in retaliation.

Second, this is an exercise of discretion by the Home Office – a deliberate choice, not an automatic process.

And so the Home Office is choosing to prioritise deportations above the very real effect of depriving families and partners – and remember, the families, dependents and partners have not committed any crime but they will suffer and be damaged anyway.

Third, it is notable that there seems to be no trumpeting by the home office of deportations to other commonwealth countries such as Canada, New Zealand and Australia – and this is perhaps for the obvious reason.

Fourth, the Home Office policy of the hostile environment and its treatment of Windrush families demonstrates that it is not well placed to make sensible decisions in respect of families from the Caribbean – and it would be wise for the Home Office to step back from such coercive moves as this deportation until it gets a wider policy grip.

And fifth, to the extent that those convicts who have been released from sentences remain ‘dangerous’ then the question must be why they have been released from prison.


This deportation is an ugly spectacle, and it is one which nobody involved can take pride.

And the fact that there will be those who nod and clap and cheer at this brutal exercise of sheer state power tells us more about our society than anything about the families that are about to be forcibly broken up, so that the Home Secretary can tweet her party political ‘owns’.


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22 thoughts on “Why today’s deportations to Jamaica are nothing for the Home Secretary to be boastful about”

  1. Your article movingly catches the horrid tone and substance of this policy, which is:
    Indifferent to hypocritical evocation of the family as the acclaimed bedrock of society;
    Instrumental in evoking disrespect for law, by showing how arbitrarily and harshly it can be applied;
    Short-sighted, by leaving children likely to harbour deep grudge against authority
    Callous, in apparently offering no support to deportees to help them start a new business in their country of origin.

  2. It’s only loosely connected to the blog post (but see also Mr Elliott’s tweet ‘for “last minute tactics read: “the law”‘) but since I just stumbled upon it today: There’s a line in Tacitus about laws and power, attributed to Tiberius of all people:

    minui iura quotiens gliscat potestas,
    nec utendum imperio ubi legibus agi possit.

    The laws are diminished every time (official) power grows, and one shouldn’t use (executive) command where you can operate with laws.

    Anyway, thanks for the posts, David, it’s a pleasure to read this stuff, despite the sometimes irksome matters at hand (there are some chunks of prose to that effect in Tacitus as well…)!

  3. You have expressed this better than I ever could, and I thank you for it. The actions of the Home Office make me feel ashamed of this country. Sadly, one more deplorable act in a long history of shameful injustices. I can only encourage others to engage in whatever way they can in opposing these actions.

  4. Your blog highlights this deplorable behaviour from our deplorable Home Secretary. Not in my name. Like the other commenters, I am deeply ashamed of my country at the moment. Thank you for your efforts and the time you take to highlight these concerns in your blog, to which I subscribe. PS. a tiny typo you might want to correct: “The deportees include those who can to the United Kingdom as children and have no real connection with Jamaica.”

  5. Priti Patel is like Regan in King Lear, encouraging her husband to put out the Duke of Gloucester’s eyes and gloating over the action.

  6. Thank you David, this is a critical time to speak up for those who are being made scapegoats by a Home secretary who breaks whatever rules she can get away with.

  7. David, I agree this is a shameful spectacle both for the double whammy of sentence plus deportation and the collective punishment meted out to those of their families who have done nothing wrong. It harks back to the worst of Victorian ‘transportation’ policies.

    The deportation policy reflects nothing new but is an inevitable extension of policies first enacted by the Blair government, made far worse by Theresa May and now brought to fruition by Priti Patel who infamously touted capital punishment as a viable deterrent (back-pedalling furiously since).

    The present iteration of immigration policy bears all the hallmarks of a political regime gone off piste by a long way and the fact so many right-wing nut-jobs appear to rejoice in these shameful practices suggests we have a long way to go before this practice is stopped in its tracks, nevermind rowing the policy back to something just.

    Keep up the great work!

  8. Posting anonymously …

    My son is on the Civil Service fast stream, and so will work within several different Civil Service departments over the new few years, as will his peers in the scheme.

    He tells me that NO-ONE wants to go to the Home Office, which is increasingly seen as the land of Mordor, where the shadows lie. It is seen as a place where vile policies are imposed by vile people, and no-one wants to take on the role of the concentration-camp guards who later defend themselves with “I was only following orders”.

    This is what the Home Office has become.

  9. I am not surprised.
    Let us never forget that United Kingdom is the inventor of the concentration camp, not he Germans.

  10. It seems to be the lot of the Home Secretary to be the target of ordure. Not that I have much time for the current one in general – that default Umbridge smirk is unfortunate – but, well, Theresa May, Jacqui Smith, Jack Straw, Michael Howard, Douglas Hurd…

    Who was the last great Home Secretary? Roy Jenkins? (Arguably, his second term in the 1970s is besmirched by the trials of the Birmingham Six and the Guildford Four under his watch amongst other things, although it did bring the 1975 Sex Discrimination Act and the 1976 Race Relations Act – but in his first term he introduced the 1968 Race Relations Act 1968, and oversaw decriminalisation of homosexuality and abortion, and long overdue prison and police reforms.) Or Herbert Morrison? Addington? Any of them?

    On this specific topic, it is rather unfortunate that deportation of someone after conviction is treated as an administrative matter within the discretion of the Home Office, and not a judicial matter for the courts to determine as part of sentencing. I’d have much more confidence in the criminal courts getting to an appropriate decision, and not least because any decision would be subject to appeal. Particularly as many of those affected by deportation to the Caribbean are “accidental” aliens who’ve lived in the UK for most of their lives, who may have missed their chance to apply for UK citizenship: some may think they are British anyway, having moved here decades ago; others perhaps deterred by the administrative complexity and cost involved. I have no confidence in administrators at the Home Office being on top of the human rights aspects. The current system seems almost designed to be as opaque and capricious as possible. The very opposite of justice. A rum deal all round.

  11. Simply all of this and multiply it ten times over. A hard hitting, useful and cracking piece to make people think.
    I wish Priti Patel would though!

    Deporting parents/ people to a country where they were children and who may have little memory of that place is vindictive since they have already been punished once by loss of their liberty by imprisonment.

    They are then punished again by Deportation which, should have no place in a caring society. Why bother with Rehabilitation and waste the money? Surely the Government must fix the system for Offenders!

    A third punishment comes into being if there is a separation (again) from their children and In turn their children are punished by losing physical contact and/ or economic security maybe forever.

    Surely the children shouldn’t be punished, but then this Government voted to not feed hungry school children and l’m sure you have pointed out in your writings previously, things aren’t normal.


    1. I do wonder what the present conservative government would react if Canada and Australia decided to repatriate the thousands of children who were sent from care homes (without their mother’s knowledge) to these countries in the early 1950s, if they have fallen foul of the law as adults. The majority were of European descent. As far as I understand it was under a conservative government that this took place.

  12. Thank you David. Amongst all of the current madness it is good to read timely, sensible and balanced commentary, especially regarding such inhumane practices from our own government. Keep it up.

  13. It is quite shocking that the Home Office has proceeded with these deportations. It seems they have learnt nothing from the Windrush scandal. The UK has a global reputation for fairness and reasonableness, which is being severly eroded by this current government.

    1. Because, if you read the base of the post under which you are commenting, comments are pre-moderated

      1. Thanks, but I did read it. Does your reply mean that my comment is still going through the process of moderation?

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