The five local party representatives on Labour’s ruling body who were recently elected with the support of Momentum have urged Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner to speak out over a deportation flight set to take place tomorrow.
Nadia Jama, Mish Rahman, Yasmine Dar, Gemma Bolton and ex-MP Laura Pidcock – who all stood on the ‘Grassroots Voice’ slate in the most recent national executive committee elections – have written to the Labour leader and deputy leader.
In their letter today, the NEC members said they were “alarmed” that Starmer and Rayner have not directly commented on the flight that is expected to see 50 people deported by the Home Office to Jamaica on December 2nd.
Those subject to the action have been described as “dangerous foreign criminals” by the government, which says “convicted murderers and rapists” are amongst them. But there are concerns that some of those facing removal grew up in the UK.
A letter organised by Clive Lewis and signed by more than 60 MPs called on the government to cancel the deportation. It was not signed by Starmer or any shadow cabinet members, which is standard practice for such letters.
Raising concerns over a repeat of the Windrush scandal, the letter from MPs to Home Secretary Priti Patel stated: “Some of the individuals affected arrived in this country as children. Many now have children of their own. Britain is their home.”
There has been no public announcement but The Guardian has reported that a deal was quietly agreed between the Home Office and Jamaica not to use the controversial flight to remove people who came to the UK as children.
Shadow immigration minister Holly Lynch wrote to her opposite number Kevin Foster on Saturday to raise “urgent points”, including whether an assessment has been made that none of the migrants are eligible for the Windrush scheme.
Lynch also asked whether the findings of the recent Equality and Human Rights Commission report looking into the Home Office had been taken into account. The body found that the government had broken equalities law via its ‘hostile environment’ policies.
But a number of activists have accused the Labour leadership of not being outspoken enough on the flight, with the five NEC members telling Starmer and Rayner “neither of you have intervened, opposed or made any public statement” on the issue.
The Labour left representatives on the ruling body have asked the leader and deputy leader to “make a decisive and compassionate intervention” to ensure that “communities who need us the most do not feel let down by us in their time of need”.
Commenting on the deportation flight, Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Nick Thomas-Symonds said: “We know the government has behaved unlawfully in the handling of the Windrush scandal.
“We have raised these issues as a matter of urgency with the Home Office and will be holding the government to account on this. The Home Office must not repeat the injustices of the Windrush scandal.“
Below is the full text of the letter from five Labour NEC members.
Dear Keir and Angela,
We know that the frontbench don’t normally take part in ‘round robin letters’ but we are alarmed that there has been no comment from you both in response to the deportation flight scheduled for 2nd December.
The “hostile environment” is alive and kicking despite the fact that according to the EHRC, the Home Office broke the law with its pursuit of the policy. Some of the individuals on the plane arrived in this country as children and many now have their own. Britain is their home.
The Windrush scandal is inhumane and unjust. Both of you have previously condemned it and you were right to do so. Now as leaders of the Labour Party you are obligated to speak out in condemnation of this injustice and stand up for Black communities.
We must listen to the experiences of migrant communities, many of whom feel unwanted and unwelcome in this country despite spending their lives here, always fearing that one day they may be ‘sent back’ because of the colour of their skin, facing everyday inequality, direct racism, as well as institutionalised and structural racism.
We, the Labour Party, have to assure them that Britain is their home and the Labour Party will fight for their basic human rights.
You both took the knee earlier in the year to pay homage to the Black Lives Matter movement. Given the trauma these deportations have caused Black communities, we are shocked that neither of you have intervened, opposed or made any public statement to ease the pain and to show solidarity in response to the Conservative government’s planned deportations.
As members of the national executive committee, and many of us coming from Black, Asian and ethnic communities, we request that you make a decisive and compassionate intervention in this matter, so that communities who need us the most do not feel let down by us in their time of need.