The controversial Home Office deportation charter flight to Zimbabwe took off with only 14 out of the scheduled 50 people rounded up for deportation.
Sources at the Home Office told Report Focus News that, hours before the chartered flight to Zimbabwe, was due to take off, two detainees due to board the controversial flight threw themselves from the second floor of the building. They were being held at Colnbrook immigration removal centre. In a desperate bid to stop their deportation two detainees jumped.
Thankfully, they landed on a safety netting below. The two detainees are believed to have been unharmed and were not put on the plane that left last night.
There were also multiple legal challenges due to concerns about the safety of returnees in Zimbabwe, with legal teams arguing that Zimbabwe has a poor human rights record. Some of those earmarked for return have spent decades in the UK, have families here and were politically active against the ZANU PF government.
The flight was due to have about 50 people but only 14 are believed to have been on board when it took off from Stansted. It presented the Home Office with a series of problems, with dozens of escorts self-isolating until later this week due to being exposed to colleagues with Covid.
Home Office officials confirmed on Tuesday evening that there is an outbreak of Covid at Brook House near Gatwick. Some of the Zimbabweans at that detention centre due to be deported could not be removed due to the outbreak.
There were also multiple legal challenges due to concerns about the safety of returnees in Zimbabwe, a country with a poor human rights record. Some of those earmarked for return have spent decades in the UK, have families here and were politically active against the Mugabe regime.
While Covid and other antics had prevented the removal and deportation of 36 other Zimbabweans still held in detention. The flight took off with one-third of the passengers on board that officials had hoped to remove.
An emergency out of hours high court challenge by Duncan Lewis solicitors to halt the whole flight did not succeed. However, the judge, Justice Steyn, accepted that anyone on the flight given face to face interviews with Zimbabwean officials before being issued with an emergency travel document required to enter Zimbabwe could be at risk on return.
She granted an order preventing the individual who brought the case from boarding the flight but left it to others on the flight to make their own individual applications. By the time news of the high court order was made public it was not possible to communicate it to all of those who may have been able to benefit from it as they were en-route to the flight with their phones confiscated.
Bella Sankey, director of the charity Detention Action, said: “The high court’s landmark intervention rightly recognises the real risk of appalling human rights violations when the Home Office allows the Zimbabwean government to question those it seeks to expel. But how horrifying that others subjected to the same practice may have been loaded on to the plane, unable to hear about this judgment or use the precedent to prevent their own removal.”
It is the first mass deportation flight to Zimbabwe for many years and marks the start of a planned ‘summer season’ of charter flight deportations to countries including Vietnam and Jamaica that the Home Office is planning in the coming weeks.