At least five people have been killed in Jamaica since March last year after being deported from the UK by the Home Office, the Guardian has learned.
The killings took place after the men were sent back to Jamaica – which has one of the highest per capita murder rates in the world – despite strict rules prohibiting deportations to countries in which an individual’s life may be in danger.
The government does not routinely monitor what happens to people who have been deported. But through interviews and archive research, the Guardian has verified the deaths of the five men and been told by other returnees that they fear for their lives.
The revelations will increase pressure on the Home Office to justify its resumption in February of deportation charter flights to Jamaica, after they were suspended following the Windrush scandal.
Some of the men had convictions for violent and drug-related offences. But Naga Kandiah, a public law solicitor at MTC & Co – which deals with many Jamaican deportation cases – said the government’s human rights obligations were not dependent on past behaviour.
“The Home Office’s own guidance recognises the high level of crime there due to organised gangs,” he said. “Nobody is saying that these men had not committed crimes, but it is a clear breach of human rights legislation to send them back to a country where their life could be in serious danger.”
Lawyers routinely use the European convention on human rights to argue deportation would pose a threat to life.
The majority of murders the Guardian has identified involving people deported from the UK to Jamaica have occurred in the past three or four months. The victims definitively established are:
Owen Clarke, 62, who was shot and killed by armed men on 23 February. Clarke, known as Father Fowl and Roy Fowl, was a music promoter and had been convicted of dealing drugs. According to Jamaican media, he was a leader of the British Link-Up Crew, a dancehall events business in the UK and Jamaica, which was allegedly a front for drug smuggling.
Dewayne Robinson, 37, known as Little Wicked, was murdered on 4 March 2018.
Alphonso Harriott, 56, known as Oney British and reportedly part of the same crew as Clarke, was murdered on 29 March.
Paul Mitchell, 50, was fatally stabbed on 31 December in the grocery store at which he worked.
Hugh Bennett, 48, a shopkeeper, was stabbed to death on 31 December.
Last year, there were 1,287 murders in Jamaica, about 47 per 100,000 population. In contrast, there were 726 homicides in the UK in 2017-18 – 12 per million of the population.
According to the Home Office’s guidance about Jamaica published in March last year, the Jamaica constabulary force is “underpaid, poorly trained, understaffed and lacking in resources”. Organised criminal elements are prevalent and extremely active, the guidance states, and police only make arrests in 45% of cases, with a homicide conviction rate of 7%. Eighty per cent of murders involve firearms.
Gracie Bradley, the policy and campaigns manager at the human rights organisation Liberty, said by putting deportees in danger, the government was adding an additional punishment to that imposed by courts.
“It is incredibly disturbing that the government continues to pursue deportations at the expense of its human rights obligations, which stipulate that people must not be deported to situations where they face threats to their life, torture or ill-treatment,” she said.
“These worrying incidents further highlight why the practice of deportation post-conviction is a discriminatory form of double punishment that should be scrapped.”
Some of the men on the February charter flight said they knew some of the murder victims. One deportee said he was ambushed in a shop days after arriving in Jamaica by a group of armed men he knew from when he previously lived there.
“I believe I was targeted,” he said. “I had had an altercation with one of those men when I was in Jamaica in 2012. A group of armed men ran into a shop I was in and they had high-powered rifles. A lot of shots were fired and another man died. I escaped into some bushes behind the shop and was lucky to survive.
“I think that people who were on that February charter flight have been targeted. Everyone knew that charter flight was coming and people keep a lookout. I think that people deported from the UK are particular targets once they reach Jamaica.”
A spokeswoman for the End Deportations campaign group said: “It’s sickening but sadly not surprising that people who the Home Office have deported have been killed. These deportations must be stopped immediately before more lives are lost.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “We only return those with no legal right to remain in the UK, including foreign national offenders. Individuals are only returned to their country of origin when the Home Office and courts deem it is safe to do so.
“Should the Home Office receive any specific allegations that a returnee has experienced ill-treatment on return to their country of origin, these would be investigated in partnership with the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.”