This is Chris’s story. He is one of a growing number of people being deported from the UK, even when they have spent most of their lives here. Like so many other deportees, Chris originally moved to Britain as a child. He speaks with a London accent, and the Jamaica of his childhood is a distant memory.
The British government’s deportation regime operates on the premise of sending home migrants who break the rules, and ‘foreign criminals’ are seen to be the ultimate ‘bad migrants’. If you do not have British citizenship, and you fall foul of the law, then you are likely to be deported. For those deported from the UK, their crimes might be minor and their connections to the UK longstanding.
It is important to tell the stories of people sent back. While it is usually argued that ‘foreign criminals’ have endangered the British public and should therefore be sent ‘home’, many of these ‘foreign criminals’ are being exiled from all that they know. They don’t appear all that foreign nor do they define themselves as migrants; they are not sent home but banished from it. There are people all around the world who sound, act, and feel British, whatever that means, and yet who have been deported to countries they barely remember.
Whatever you think about crime, immigration control and enforced removals, deportation is an extraordinary form of state power, with profound implications for those effected. In this article, Chris tells his story, which highlights some of the wider issues that came up during my research in Jamaica. I try to flag these wider issues in the italicised text, both to contextualise Chris’ words and to provide further reading for those who seek it.
Chris’ narrative below is transcribed from conversations we had on Whatsapp, a mobile messaging application. We sent one another voice clips, and for that reason it reads like a transcript. I have edited it in the thinnest of ways – deleting a few tangential flourishes, and reordering a few passages. Chris looked over drafts of this piece as we edited and discussed it together. Chris’ language is part of his story, it is much more London than Kingston, although he can switch, and I didn’t want to sanitise it here. Too much would be lost.
I want to thank Luke for getting me involved. I will be happy if just one or two other people read this; that’s a huge achievement for me.
To be going through so much right now and then to get a chance to have my voice heard as a part of a wider project; I’m proud to be a part of it. The Home Office decision literally tore my family apart, so I just want to get some awareness out, through my little story, my short life, my deportation, about what’s going on.
I went primary school and high school in Jamaica, up to year 9. And it was alright. I had a mother and a father and they was both playing a role in my life.
Then I came to the UK in 2001 and I lived with my mum; I got into high school to finish it off. I got Indefinite Leave to Remain straight away, so that was good. Although obviously indefinite didn’t really mean indefinite.
Of the people I met in Jamaica, some had Indefinite Leave to Remain (i.e. they were legal permanent residents in the UK). Often they did not apply for citizenship when they could have, simply because it was expensive or inconvenient. Other deportees were irregular migrants before they entered deportation proceedings. In many instances, these individuals arrived on visitor visas – often as children – and then simply overstayed.
My dad passed away during GCSEs – literally the same month I was supposed to start my GCSEs. So I went through some emotionally rough times, where I couldn’t concentrate on my exams or anything, so I didn’t get the grades that I wanted. The school offered to delay my exams so I had time to cope with his passing. But, at the time I didn’t really care, like, I didn’t really care about nothing because I’d lost my father.
After that I went to college for a year, I did electrical installation, I passed the theory and such, didn’t do the practical. It was after Sixth Form that I got caught up with the police. My mum moved out of London, to Leeds. I didn’t wanna move to Leeds with my mum at the time, I was being a rebellion teen init! So I was staying at an aunt’s house, not working. I was on the benefit system, which wasn’t enough and I started to get involved with the wrong crowd. I ended up going out, doing street robberies. It was with my mates, and we just used to drink and smoke and sometimes get in fights and end up robbin’ people. It was stupid really. I ended up getting arrested when I was about 19, and I got a 20-months sentence for street robbery.
I did my time in Y.O (a youth offenders prison) – my 10 months. The Home Office said they wanted to deport me but they gave me a second chance at this stage. When I got out I moved up to Leeds.
Chris was released from prison in June 2007, a time when the government was writing up the UK Borders Act. This Act instituted the policy of ‘automatic deportation’, which meant that the Home Secretary was compelled to pursue the deportation of any non-EEA foreign national with a 12-month sentence or over – i.e. it became automatic rather than discretionary. Chris was able to evade deportation at this stage, something that would have been significantly more difficult a year or so later, when the UK Borders Act came into effect.
I moved to my mum’s house, but I was becoming an adult now, so I wanted my own space. I was tired of being that child, you get me? I went and spoke to probation and my probation officer helped me get a room in a hostel. While living there I wasn’t working, I was on the benefit system, still going back and forth to my mum’s helping her out, because I’m the oldest.
I was smoking weed, I think I was using that as an anti-depressant to like numb the feeling of not doing anything, just sitting and chillin’ and smoking every day. Like the benefit system helped me to cope with that and provide that, you get me. But, then my benefits kinda got messed up in 2010. I had a backlog of debt arrears, rent arrears, so what happened was, I couldn’t pay my rent. I ended up losing my flat. I tried to correct the arrears, tried to correct the paperwork, but I couldn’t. I couldn’t have cleared my debt being on benefits anyways, and I couldn’t find work – everyone was asking for experience and so forth.
So I ended up losing my flat, losing my flat and not being on benefits, literally homeless. I met some more people, who I used to smoke weed with, but they had a different income. One guy was like, ‘ah you know you can make a little extra change doing this, and you can provide for yourself, you can even rent a flat and so forth’, so I was like, hey, I’ve got nothing right now so I may as well take it. It’s like giving a hungry dog a piece of bone he’s gonna eat it like it’s a piece of steak. That was my feeling at the time, I was desperate. So, again, I got in with the wrong crowd, you get me? He was a good guy, but he was still the wrong crowd.
Many of the deported persons I met had really struggled to find paid work in the UK. For some this was because of their irregular immigration status, for others it was because of their status as ex-offenders, and for others it was a combination of factors, including a lack of work experience and few qualifications. But it is important to note that many people are deported for crimes which were committed to earn money where formal employment proved elusive. This is not true of all deportees, but many.
So that’s how I got into that position where I was selling drugs, well trying to sell drugs, that was the weirdest thing, I didn’t even sell one.
I got arrested on the first attempt really, walking around, like, looking for drug addicts to sell to, because I didn’t have my own clientele. The other guys were more established, they had a system going – I didn’t. First attempt…which brought the charge of possession with intent to supply. I got bail, and came out and waited in Leeds to be sentenced.
At the time I had two kids as well. They were both one at the time; there’s six months between them. I was playing a good part in their lives. I was there at the hospital for both of their births. I saw them regularly, almost every day I saw them, morning and night. I used to go over to both of their houses, and like, in the mornings I used to bathe my son, take care of him, dress him, feed him, cook porridge for him. So I was building a bond with him. My daughter likewise, I used to go to her house as well, put her to sleep, wake her up, bathe her, feed her, and so forth.
I was building a bond with my kids
I used to take them both to nursery and such, on odd days. We used to alternate it, we had a good routine worked out between me and my kids. They understood that I weren’t living with them, but I made sure I saw them every day up to my sentence.
I took my daughter to nursery a few times, and they didn’t really know who I was, because I was more private. When they finally met me and they saw she was like, ‘wait daddy, daddy, daddy, daddy don’t go, daddy don’t go’, like, she was crying and they was like ‘what?’ They didn’t know she had such a strong bond with her father.
My son as well, every time I went over the house, he used to just hide round the corner, and just smile, giggle, wait for me to step inside the house and then he would just pounce on me and from then on it would be non-stop playing, non-stop playing until he would fall asleep in my arms, every night. That was one of the greatest things I had with my son, like he used to just fall asleep in my arms. He had his bed and stuff, like, and he had his mum to put him to bed, but me not living with them, like, spending those times, that was our thing. I used to put him to bed, you get me, I used to put my daughter to bed some nights, wake her up in the morning. So I had a good relationship with my kids going to jail.
I went to jail, in May 2011. I got a two-year sentence, and so had a release date for 12 months later, some time in May 2012. My second time in prison was a lot easier, given that I had experience from my first time. I knew what to expect. I got in, just kept my head down, didn’t really get into any trouble, just kept myself to myself.
Within the first few months, they served me the paper to say ‘you’re gonna be deported’
I can’t remember exactly how soon, but within the first few months, they served me the paper to say ‘here you’re gonna be deported’. When I first saw it I was like damn, I gotta go through this again because I already went through it, in my Y.O stage. So I was like, boy, I feel like this one’s gonna be hard but I’ve got more grounds to stay here because I’ve got my family now and I’ve been here for years. I had my family, my kids, my parents, everybody was here, I didn’t really have anybody in Jamaica, or know if I had anybody back in Jamaica because I lost contact with Jamaica, for so long, you get me. Jamaica became like non-existent to me. Once I got to England, my contact with family and friends deteriorated, and became non-existent.
This was a very common finding of mine. Most of the people I spoke to hadn’t kept in contact with their family members back in Jamaica; they weren’t especially ‘transnational’, and this can be illustrated by the fact that most of them had only taken two flights in their lives – one to the UK, and one back. This lack of contact often explained some of the family tension, hostility and stigma people faced on return. The logic seemed to be: ‘you had a golden opportunity, and you forgot about us, and now you messed up and you want our help?’
I learnt everything in England. So England became my home. It taught me how to be tough, how to fight; England educated me, school-wise and street-wise.
This is a simple yet powerful critique of the deportation regime in the UK and elsewhere. ‘England made me a criminal, not Jamaica, so why should I be sent back there?’ I have come across this argument among many deported persons. To put this into a simple policy solution, we might implement an age-cap for deportations, so that if you arrive before a certain age then you cannot be deported. This is the case in other European countries (see here, pg 3). We can argue over whether this age might be 6, 12, 15 or whatever, but it seems sensible. Deporting somebody who moved to the UK as a child – or rather was moved to the UK as a child – and who spent all their formative years here, to a country they hardly remember, does seem like the starkest and most patently unjust element in deportation proceedings.
During the jail sentence, I was getting letters back and forth between me and the Home Office. A year had nearly passed, and they said they were gonna deport me so I knew I wasn’t gonna get released on my release date. Immigration wrote to me saying I’m gonna be detained after my sentence because I’ve got an immigration case coming and they said I might be a danger to society, so they’re detaining me. I’m thinking, that’s bullshit really. I’ve done courses in prison, I’ve been working, like, probation and jail can literally clarify that.
Chris was right to suspect that he would not be released. In fact, by law, there should have been a presumption in favour of his release. Really, he should only have been held beyond his release date if the Home Office thought that he presented a significant absconding risk (which is unlikely in Chris’ case), or if his removal was imminent (which clearly it was not). At the time that Chris was detained post-sentence, there was a case being fought in the courts over this very issue (Lumba (WL) 2011 see here). The outcome of this case is that it was discovered the Home Office had been following a secret, unpublished policy, which instituted a near blanket ban on release for foreign ex-offenders. In practice it meant there was an assumption in favour of detention post-sentence, rather than release. Chris was held indefinitely for over a year after his sentence date, while the Home Office pursued his deportation.
The UK has a policy of indefinite detention, where there is no time limit for those detained under immigration powers and, in practice, most of those who are actually held indefinitely, for over 12 months for example, are ex-offenders. This is because the Home Office fears releasing them should they re-offend. Fearing tabloid stories about foreigners committing crimes when they should have been deported, the Home Office effectively detains ex-offenders indefinitely. Chris was caught up in this, and spent over a year of his life incarcerated as a result.
Immigration wrote to me saying I’m gonna be detained after my sentence
So I didn’t get released. About two or three weeks after my time’s gone, they told me I’m going next door, to Moorlands prison, because it’s for more foreign nationals, because they were moving everyone out of Lindholme who was a foreign national. I thought hey at least, I’ll get more assistance for immigration because I’m doing my case and that’s where they’re saying they’re based.
Since the ‘Foreign National Prisoner Crisis’ of 2006, the prison has become a key site for the identification and management of foreignness. In 2009, the Ministry of Justice and UKBA instituted a policy known as Hubs and Spokes, in which certain prisons were earmarked as Hub prisons, to be furnished with permanent UKBA staff so as to expedite the deportation process. Non-citizens were to be moved from Spoke prisons to these Hub prisons where possible. A number of prisons were re-purposed as foreigner-only prisons, and this has continued to this day (see for example HMP Huntercombe, HMP Maidstone and The Verne). While I do not have a comprehensive knowledge of the prison estate, it is worth framing Chris’ move to Moorlands within this wider context, in which prisons were re-purposed to prioritise immigration matters and to house greater numbers of foreign prisoners.
When we went to the first-tier court, both of my baby mothers came.
My kids couldn’t come, because that would literally influence it. Because they’re gonna see the bond I have with my kids, so they said nah, they don’t want no influences in the court room. My mum came up from London; my cousin, my best friend as well, he drove them up, and both my baby mothers came. So we was all in the court. The solicitor went up, and said his piece. I stood up, said my piece. They asked loads of questions and I was like, really, come on man, look, you can see how good we are – we’ve all come together because we care. We’ve put our differences aside.
Yes, my relationship might not be a top grade A relationship, but it is a relationship. Like, who has a perfect relationship? You can’t just base it off the Beckhams, or the Kardashians, or some rich kids. You can’t base it off that, like, some people have broken down relationships, but it works. It’s the kids, I’ve got a bond with the kids, you can’t take me away from it. So I was like, really, kind of shocked, I don’t know, I got angry at certain stages because they was saying I was lying, and I’m like, come on man, just give a brother another chance, I’ve literally changed my whole life.
“Who has a perfect relationship?” This, for me, is a pertinent question. I would say it’s unanswerable and yet it is a question in which the Home Office is somehow embroiled. What counts as a genuine and stable relationship? What does a good parent look like? How do we define and assess love? Immigration controls demand that we have a way to answer these questions (which is why I think there are some interesting connections between No Borders politics and queer politics, a resistance to categorization, to being boxed – see here). The Home Office needs to distinguish the genuine from the sham, the stable from the irresponsible – the father who cannot be removed from his children’s lives from the father who can. This a morally freighted endeavor and the state is heavily invested here in defining what a family should look like (read nuclear, heterosexual, monogamous, etc.). Moreover, there is a long history of pathologising the Black family, on both sides of the Atlantic, and we would be slightly naïve to imagine that Chris’ blackness had no part to play in the way in which his fatherhood and relationships become intelligible to the Home Office and the courts.
Prison was not that bad, but taking you away from your family is the real punishment part, you get me?
You can’t go home and your kids are there, and you know you should be doing certain things, and you can’t. So, that’s the real punishment. But they didn’t care. They did not care one bit, at all. So, at the end of the court case, everybody was there. And they’re like, they’re gonna write to me and let me know the verdict. So I gave everybody a hug. I gave my mum a hug first. So I was like, yeah, there was love throughout the whole room, like, I even cried throughout the whole thing.
A few weeks had passed now and I was still in Moorlands Prison, after my court case. My results came. A letter came saying ok, they’d gone through everything and didn’t believe that my relationships were real. I can’t be jumping from one relationship to another and they say I haven’t bonded with my kids yet, so I can just build a bond with them from abroad.
It is often argued that men can continue their relationships with their children from abroad, using modern means of technology – thus we see the phenomenon of the ‘skype dad’).
They didn’t believe that my relationships were real
I’m thinking how can you say build a bond from abroad? My kids know who I am right now. They’ve visited me so much, you get me? But they tried to say it wasn’t enough. But I’m like how can you say it wasn’t enough? It’s what they can afford. You moved me to a prison which is so far away, where they can’t take a bus, they have to take coaches and taxis, and that’s costly, you get me.
These people said no… I literally went back to my cell and cried, like, cried, I’m like ah shit man’s getting deported. Man just cried out my eyes, and my pad mate came in, and he was like, ‘rah’, he said ‘boy, don’t worry about it, just let it out’. You’ve got an appeal, just try and appeal it.
I cried for about an hour. Lay in my bed and just let it out. Got up, washed my face, and then I was alright. Started fighting my case back again, you get me. That was the first-tier refusal.
I think in March they gave me a letter saying they booked a ticket for me to go. I was still waiting on my second appeal. I used legal aid before but couldn’t get it this time, and my mum was dealing with a solicitor from London, which meant the paperwork had to change over.
Most of the people I met in Jamaica explained that they could not access legal aid. Many lost their right to legal aid part way through their legal battle. The sweeping cuts to legal aid have had a devastating effect on justice for the marginalized in Britain – citizens and non-citizens alike. These cuts, coupled with the slashing of in-country appeals, have made it almost impossible for most people to fight their deportation.
By the time the morning came for me to fly out, from Gatwick I think it was, they said, nah, your Judicial Review came through so you’re not gonna go anywhere, we’re gonna take you to Harmondsworth (Immigration Removal Centre next to Heathrow).
I didn’t get deported that time.
I spent a while in Immigration Detention. It was ok in Harmondsworth but then they moved me to a detention centre in Lincoln, away from my family, just to weaken my case I swear! I was not having it, I was like nah. They moved me there and I refused to eat any of their food. I had a few snacks from prison and survived on just them for two weeks, until they moved me back down to Harmondsworth. They thought I was on hunger strike.
In fact, Chris’ perspective on why they moved him from Harmondsworth to Lincoln is backed up by some research carried out by Nick Gill. It is unclear why the Home Office move people around the detention estate with such frequency, but it is clear that they do, and at some cost: Gill estimates that in the financial year 04/05 the Home Office spent around £6.5 million simply moving detainees from one detention centre to another. Gill argues that this mobility “can be seen to exert governmental effects by presenting detainees in a particular, subjective way to those who have influence over them, undermining the basis for lasting relationships of support” (see full paper here).
Anyway, I still hadn’t got my second tier appeal. It turned out the judge ended up saying that their initial decision was right, so, I was like seriously? You’re gonna agree to that bullshit. It’s not like I’ve just been in the country and been doing crime all my life. I made two silly mistakes, you get me. I didn’t rob a bank, it was just stupid. Common crime. I didn’t commit another robbery again. Then, I weren’t no Escobar or no Frank Lucas, or a drug kingpin or what not, I was just a little run around boy, trying to make a little to get by. And then you want to deport me because of that, I’m like come on man, seriously?
According to statistics released by the Government of Jamaica, over half of those deported from the UK to Jamaica following criminal conviction were convicted for drugs offences.
After that, I was in Harmondsworth, until they gave me a letter again, saying you’re gonna get deported in a week’s time. Then, a few nights before they came for me, they came and took an Iraqi guy. He had refused twice before so the third time they came in with guards, shields and riot gear and such. They opened his cell, ‘cause he was like ‘ah I’ve got a blade and I’m gonna cut myself’, he’s suicidal and so forth, so they came prepared for him, bust his door while he was sleeping at like 4.30 in the morning, twisted him and he was screaming out. I’m thinking this guy is a big man who acts so hard and stuff, and they’re making him cry.
I have heard from a number of people that immigration authorities told them that no force would be exercised the first time they were booked on a plane. But on the second flight, the escorts would be prepared to force the individual onto the flight. In this way, Chris’ concerns about getting twisted up are pretty well substantiated (see a video of such force here – warning, this is a really distressing clip).
So when they finally came for me I’m thinking you know what, fuck it I’ll pack my bags and I’ll just come. Hopefully the same thing will happen like last time. It will just get to a stage where my Judicial Review will come through again because my mum was trying to get it and my solicitor had put the paperwork in.
Driving in the van, we were waiting, and the driver took the long way – he was giving me time. Two black guys, I was like, yeah, I appreciated them. I was on their phone, chatting a lot, so yeah, they was helping me, giving me time.
In Mary Bosworth’ work on immigration detention she explores the at times sympathetic views of detention staff. She argues that immigration detention, and by extension borders themselves, are always rendered unstable by certain forms of recognition, as illustrated here, on Chris’ drive to the airport. Interestingly, Bosworth notes that when Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs) began to house an increased proportion of ex-offenders, many of the guards felt stronger affinities to these detainees. Given that ex-offenders are often long-settled, speak with regional accents and share cultural references with staff, they often identified with them more than they might have with other populations, such as asylum seekers. In Chris’ example too, we should acknowledge the importance of a shared British blackness. In fact, these men may have felt incredibly similar to Chris. I find the idea that Chris is a ‘foreigner’ in Britain pretty hard to sustain, and I would proffer that this is especially marked for the two young Black guys driving him to the airport.
Turns out, I got to Gatwick and it [Judicial Review] didn’t come through. My solicitor’s saying they refused it. My heart literally dropped down some well somewhere, because it weren’t in me no more, you get me, and I’m like, shit, what to do. A whole fear came in to me of getting twisted up and being brought down, like how that Iraqi guy got twisted up and I’m thinking there’s been a few people they’ve come like that, just handcuffed and such and twisted up.
We have to note that Chris’ fear of being twisted up is well founded. In fact, the physical violence of enforced removals can be severe, and we only need to remember Jimmy Mubenga to recognise that Chris, as a Black man seeking to resist his removal, was faced with a pretty grave decision.
I don’t even know. I talked to my mum, I’m like mum, you know what, we’ve spent so much money on this, and it’s money that you had to borrow. I’m thinking, I’ll stop being selfish. So I said, nah, I’m just gonna go. And I got on the plane. I got in a happy mode; I don’t know how I just kept a smile on my face. Nobody even knew, like the stewards and stuff.
I came back to Jamaica with a plan, saying, you know what, I’m gonna make something of it, like, I’ve learnt so much being in the UK, not just bad things, I’m gonna prove them wrong. I’ve heard about people that’s been deported, whilst I was in jail, that’ve got into gang thingies and as soon as they’ve got down here they get killed. Either the police or fellow gunmen kill them.
I had a positive attitude when I first came. And I had a plan
I have heard these kind of stories from different sources: from guys in the barbers in Manchester (England), to numerous people throughout Jamaica. While I haven’t got any concrete examples of deportees being killed, I have no reason to assume that everybody who tells me that they know someone who was killed after being deported is lying. In a more general sense, most of the deported persons I met were living in what they called ‘ghettos’. They spoke of gunshots, witnessing people being killed, and a kind of generalised violence which they found really unnerving. I think that the fact that most deported persons return to these areas is telling, and illustrates something about cycles of economic disadvantage that play out transnationally.
I was like, yeah I’m gonna get a job, save, see if I can give back my mum the money. I know the time frame I’ve got and so forth. So if I can get a job within the first six months, then maybe I can appeal and say this is what I’ve done now, I’ve come here and I’ve not got into no trouble. I’m working and so forth. I had a positive attitude when I first came. And I had a plan.
Increasingly, people are returning to Jamaica with an out-of-country right of appeal. That means the Home Office has told them that they cannot appeal in the UK, but can pursue their appeal from Jamaica. This applies to people from other countries too, and reflects the policy of ‘deport first, appeal later’, which has been operational for ‘foreign criminals’ for nearly two years now, and is to be rolled out to most immigration cases next year. Lodging an appeal, within 28 days of deportation, is incredibly difficult for a number of reasons, especially when people are trying to find shelter and reconnect with family and friends. The denial of a right to in-country appeal is, in practice, often a denial of the right to an appeal altogether (see this briefing by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants).
But, the Jamaica system is fucked up as you’ve seen.
I was staying with my family, with a cousin in Kingston. With the money my mum sent to help me get my ID, my birth paper and such, they just wasted that money on bettering their life, instead of helping me. But, that was their bargain, they just thought about pounds coming in. Until eventually, man’s like, you’re not even helping me. I lashed out and was like I’m leaving here. I’m kinda glad I left there though, because I wouldn’t be where I am right now if I didn’t.
I moved to my uncle’s, but he didn’t want me sleeping on his floor. He said I had wasted my opportunity in England and he had no sympathy. I was staying with a couple of different friends in East Kingston, but we hadn’t even seen or spoken to each other for over ten years before now. I was just back and forth, between houses – nowhere to go, sleeping on sofas, on floors, in chairs. My ankles swelled up because I was just sleeping in a chair. My health was deteriorating and shit.
One day I was walking the streets and found this homeless shelter. I spoke to them, and they had other deportees there and I was like, this is better than sleeping on chairs and whatever. So I moved in there to try and get my life together.
But it wasn’t nice. There were like 30 men in one dorm, and there was bedbugs; the place was infested, with different homeless men there, and it was hard. I was trying to get out though. Every week, walking up and down. Trying to get interviews, meeting new people. And that’s when I got myself a little part time job, just one night a week, in the place I work full time now. When I got this part time job, I found a place in the part of Kingston I grew up in, Rockfort. I wanted to leave the homeless shelter, but I couldn’t be sleeping rough on a chair or what not. So I found a room that I could afford.
It was good and bad there. There was a lot of gang violence going on. Gunmen running around. I got introduced to guns. But, I had a strong mind frame to say I don’t wanna be involved in it, even though my friends kind of expected that of me. I was just trying to blend in, not act a fool. So, I was kind of living a double life, you get me? Couldn’t help being an English man after all them years, in work trying to be normal and giving a good impression. And then, I’m back in Rockfort trying to fit in with these guys.
Eventually, I managed to get full time work. I saved and got a room over in Portmore where it’s more peaceful and quieter. No violence, no guns, no nothing. Or that I know of anyways. And that’s where I’m at now.
Now that it’s been two years and seven months, and counting, I’m at a stage where I’m working. I work six nights a week, from the evening to the morning, through the night. I live by myself, and I’m renting a room that costs 12,000 Jamaican dollars a month, excluding bills. And that 12,000 dollars will come to, I’ll say, about £80. So I’m paying £80 a month rent, on a wage of £35 a week.
My relationship with my kids is deteriorating
But what I really want to know is how the Home Office and the judge can say that I can continue my family life from abroad. Up until now I haven’t seen either of my kids. My relationship with them is deteriorating. It’s non-existent with my son. Like, me and his mum, we don’t talk. Last time we spoke was a year ago. And it was only every now and then before that. She was angry at me leaving, and I’m like I didn’t leave, they removed me – they took me on a plane. She didn’t want nothing to do with me. I’m not there so it’s easier for her to cope when she don’t talk to me at all. So I don’t get to talk to my son.
My daughter’s mum now, we talk a little. I’ll phone and she’ll put my daughter on the phone and I’ll talk to her. But I still haven’t seen her. I thought they were gonna come last year, but they couldn’t. My daughter’s mum said they were gonna come this year but then she changed her mind last minute. I said ‘why what’s come up’, and she said she’s pregnant. I was like ‘wow, congratulations!’ But that just burst my bubble because I had my hopes up thinking I was gonna see my daughter this year, you get me? It would’ve been great, but…
Her mum’s creating a new family, so she doesn’t need to come here or try to maintain a family with me. Maybe when my daughter gets old enough to travel by herself. But who knows.
I’m losing contact with my kids. As the years go by it’s just gonna get to a point where it’s maybe a call once a year for birthdays or Christmas.
I live alone, with no one. I have no friends out here
The Home Office decided that I should be deported for my crimes. But then justified it by saying ‘oh, the family will be ok’. That decision tore my life apart.
I live alone, with no one. I talk to my mum on the phone, and my brothers and sisters in England, one or two of my school friends. I have no friends out here…I have no life here really; it’s just work, and home and sleep. That’s my life. I might go to a bar on the weekend, when I have my day off, and have a few beers and I’ll play dominoes with the older men. But that’s about it. I don’t even see my mum, can’t see my brothers and sisters, I can’t see my kids! What kind of decision is that? That’s what I want to know. That’s not justifiable. You can’t say I can maintain family from abroad. I’m like, it was hard enough to maintain it while I was in jail, and it’s worse, it’s literally impossible to maintain it from abroad.
It’s fucked up.
Deportation wrenches people from their homes, families and communities.
This extraordinary form of state power has drastic implications for those deported and for their friends and families. In giving Chris’ story, we offer just one account of the pain and loss involved in deportation. Unsurprisingly, deportees are a diverse bunch, and while we provide Chris’ story alone here, it is not supposed to be representative. However, one story told right might tell us more than the statistics which capture its magnitude.
In fact, Chris is not a ‘worst-case scenario’ kind of case-study. He is now working, he has had some support from his mum in the UK, and he has a roof over his head. Some people are deported with even less than Chris: they may struggle with physical or mental ill-health; they may have spent even more of their lives in the UK, and they may have less personal resources at their disposal. Deportation can be a death sentence, for all sorts of reasons. But perhaps we need to move away from the ‘worst-case scenario stories’. In telling Chris’ story, I don’t think we can be accused of sensationalism. And we are not trying to portray Chris as some sort of saint either. In many ways, Chris’ story is not all that remarkable, and that shows what deportation policies are and what they do perhaps better than the worst-case story might.
Neither Chris nor I assume that we have all the answers. But we think that British people should at least know what they are doing when they deport people. If nothing else, we should know how cruel the punishment can be, and try to understand the people who we banish.
Banner photo by Conor Gallagher