(MSN NEWS) Almost 1,000 flights were booked to deport people to Caribbean countries in the year before the UK government halted such removals in the wake of the Windrush scandal, official figures reveal.
In the year to March, 991 seats were booked on commercial flights to remove people to the Caribbean who were suspected of being in the UK illegally, according to figures provided by the immigration minister Caroline Nokes following a series of parliamentary questions.
Nokes confirmed in her answers that removals to the Caribbean had been deferred as part of a number of “additional steps in the context of [the government’s] response to the Windrush issues”.
The Home Office said later that the number of flights booked did not necessarily equate to the number of deportations as some removals may not have happened, while others may have involved multiple tickets for one person’s indirect flights.
Last month, the home secretary, Sajid Javid, told MPs that 63 people may have been wrongfully deported to Caribbean countries and that the Home Office was investigating.
The data provided reveals that in a two-year period from 2015 to 2017, the government spent £52m on all deportation flights, including £17.7m on charter flights. The costs for the most recent 12-month period to March are not available but Nokes said no charter flights had been operated to the Caribbean in that time.
Stephen Doughty, a Labour MP on the home affairs select committee, who uncovered the figures, said: “These are yet more shocking revelations from the Home Office over the Windrush and wider scandals which expose the costs and realities of the hostile environment policy.
“People will undoubtedly have a strong suspicion that more people have been wrongfully removed than the 63 the Home Office has admitted.
“Indeed, they admit themselves in these answers that they have cancelled further removals – which I have also had confirmed by officials – which suggests they know there may have been serious errors.
“The costs involved are also staggering – millions are being spent on flights, both commercial and charter deportations, and we also know hundreds of individuals languish for indefinite periods in immigration detention centres, also at huge cost to the taxpayer, waiting for these flights. This is a system in crisis and in need of root and branch reform.”
Doughty also received details of all charter flights between March 2015 to March 2018. There were 114, including 40 in the most recent 12-month period. A total of 4,875 people have been removed to countries around the world since March 2015.
• This article was amended on 5 June 2018. The figure of 991 relates to the number of deportation flights booked, not the actual number of people who may have been deported, as stated in an earlier version.
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