A dad who has been earmarked for deportation back to Jamaica after moving to the UK aged 4, says he will now have to ‘bring his kids up via Skype’.
Owen Haisley, 45, has been living in Britain for 41 years and was given the right to remain here.
But after serving a short sentence for assault in 2015 – his status to legally remain in the UK has been ripped up.
He is one of 50 people with Jamaican roots who are due to be deported on Wednesday – and flown there on a plane dubbed the “convict flight” by a Jamaican national newspaper, The Gleaner.
Owen says the government have given him the choice of flying his children over, or speaking to the online.
The distraught dad said: “My children need me. I’ve been told they can either travel over and see me or I have got to keep in touch via Skype.”
All passengers on the so-called “convict flight” are alleged to have committed offences in the past.
Owen says he has no family in Jamaica and hasn’t been on the island since he left as a toddler.
Speaking about his ordeal, Owen described how he was arrested on January 25 before being taken to a holding facility near Heathrow in relation to an incident in 2015.
a group of people posing for the camera© Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited
Speaking to the Manchester Evening News from the detention centre, he said: “I hold my hands up, I have made mistakes but I have gone to prison, done my time for it, done rehabilitation and restorative justice, and they say I can’t have a second chance.
“Why do I have to be sent to another country and bring my children up on Skype?”
Owen moved to the UK in 1977 with his mum, who was a nurse – and was given permission to remain with no restrictions.
He was convicted in 2015 of domestic assault and spent a year at HMP Risley.
Owen was then told by immigration he would need to apply for the right to remain a UK resident.
After a three year battle with the Home Office, Owen was arrested while signing on at an immigration centre in Salford on January 25.
He has now been told he’s due to board a plane with another 49 people on Wednesday which will deport them to Jamaica.
Owen, whose great aunt was part of the Windrush generation, says he is devastated at the thought of being separated from his young children.
He said: “Offenders with a British passport can repeatedly offend and be given another chance. I’m not a repeat offender.”
Owen worked at Afflecks Palace, an indoor market, and became a well known a drum and bass and jungle DJ and MC – with residences at city centre nightclubs such as Vogue, Dry Bar and Music Box.
He spent 12 years teaching music workshops to young people as part of the organisation Greater Manchester Music Action Zone and most recently worked as a mobile phone executive.
He has worked legally with the National Insurance number he was given when he was 16 and paid taxes.
a person wearing a microphone© Provided by Trinity Mirror Shared Services Limited
Owen, who holds a Jamaican passport, first spent time in London after arriving in the UK, before moving to Manchester with his great aunt 30 years go.
He says he was originally told he had overstayed in the UK and a deportation order was issued in August 2016.
Following various appeals to the Home Office over the last three years, he was detained and ordered to be deported on a charter flight to Jamaica last year – days after the Windrush scandal broke.
But the flight was cancelled for reasons the Home Office didn’t disclose.
Owen returned to Manchester but was detained again last week while signing on at a Home Office centre in Salford.
He was taken to Manchester Central police station and held before being taken to Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre. Owen has been at Harmondsworth immigration centre, in Middlesex, since last Sunday.
He said: “It’s like a prison.
“We’re in cells and there’s a regime a bit like a prison regime. It’s cold, the food is not that great and we’re restricted to using things like internet.
“They’ve got this flight set up for Wednesday and I think they will give everyone decisions on their status that day and we won’t be able to stop it,” Owen says.
“I’ve not been back to Jamaica since I left as a kid. I have been over here for a long time, I don’t know anyone over there.
“Everyone got the impression of it’s a nice place as a tourist. For someone being deported you will be right in the middle of things. Where will I live and how will I survive financially?
a close up of a building: Headquarters of UK Visas and Immigration, a division of the Home Office© Credits: PA Headquarters of UK Visas and Immigration, a division of the Home Office
“We have been told 50 of us will be put on a flight accompanied by 190 enforcement officers will sit with us and Jamaican police will meet us and put us into a holding place. Anyone of interest to the Jamaican police will be held and everyone else will be let go.”
Owen admits that he never thought to apply for a British passport because he had lived and worked in the country for so long without a problem – a decision he now regrets.
He says he is worried about returning to a country he hasn’t set foot in since he was a young child with no family or friends to lean on.
Owen added: “The Home Office say because of my criminality they want to deport me.”
“I just wanna be given a second chance like everyone else that does a crime and serves time.
“I came over here legally. I’ve lost it all because of a 12 month imprisonment.”
Owen says he is also worried how the arrival of the flight will be received in Jamaica after hitting the headlines.
“It’s gone out in the Gleaner. We have been set as targets. People have this impression that if you’re from England you have lots of money. But they won’t even give you a change of clothing here”, he said.
“The Home Office is issuing booklets on ‘how to be Jamaican’. I’ve seen the posters in the detention centres.”
Friends of Owen have started a petition calling on MPs to intervene in his case in the hope they can persuade the Home Office to cancel his deportation.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK, like many other countries, uses charter flights to return people to their country of origin where they no longer have a right to remain.
“The majority of those being returned are returned on scheduled, commercial flights but this isn’t always an option, especially where the individual may be a foreign national offender.”