Labour MP Byrne accused of 'siding with criminals' over deportation plans

Labour's candidate for West Midlands Mayor has been accused of siding with criminals over victims after he urged ministers to stop a deportation flight to Jamaica.

Labour MP Liam Byrne is bidding to become West Midlands Mayor at next year's election
Labour MP Liam Byrne is bidding to become West Midlands Mayor at next year's election

The Home Office wants to deport more than 50 Jamaican nationals who have been convicted of serious and violent offences, including murder, manslaughter, rape, firearms offences, grooming and drug dealing.

But Liam Byrne MP said the deportations would in some cases "break up families" and as a result were contrary to Home Office requirements.

A total of 13 criminals were deported on a charter flight this week, but others were granted a last-minute reprieve after a series of legal challenges.

Mr Byrne, who wrote to Home Secretary Priti Patel outlining his opposition to the deportations, was a minister for borders and immigration when Labour brought in legislation to deport foreign criminals.

He has been accused of siding with criminals over victims.

Responding to his letter, Ms Patel said: "This is what the once great Labour Party has become.

"The man who took the 2007 Borders Act through parliament – requiring the Home Secretary to deport foreign national offenders – now wants these criminals on Britain's streets."

Eddie Hughes, the Conservative MP for Walsall North, said: "Once again Labour appears to be on the side of the criminal rather than the victim. These people have committed dreadful crimes and deserve to be deported."

Walsall North MP Eddie Hughes

In his letter, Birmingham Hodge Hill MP Mr Byrne, said: "I write on behalf of my constituents to ask you to pause, reflect and reconsider the planned mass deportation of citizens to Jamaica.

"I understand the planned deportation flights will in several cases break up families, contrary to the mandatory requirements of the Home Office to make immigration decisions with considerations for the safeguarding and welfare of children."

Mr Byrne questioned whether the deportation decisions were "fully safe" as the recommendations of the Windrush review had not yet been implemented in full.

He also said MPs had not been assured that the flight did not "put lives at risk" due to the Covid pandemic.

Mr Byrne was one of a number of Labour MPs to speak out against the deportations.

In a letter to Clive Lewis MP, Ms Patel said: "I would implore you to think of the victims of these criminals’ shameful offences.

"There can be no doubt that the idea of these deportations being halted at the last minute only serves to re-traumatise them."

Home Secretary Priti Patel

Chris Philp, Home Office minister for immigration compliance, said the legal action had resulted in "murderers and rapists" being able to stay in the UK.

The Home Office said none of the offenders involved were signed up to the Windrush compensation scheme.

Officials said the 13 criminals who were deported had combined sentences of more than 100 years, with the passenger list including three convicted murderers.

Responding to the backlash, Mr Byrne said: "It's really unwise for politicians to try and score points by stirring it up on sensitive immigration decisions which are decided by grown-ups in the courts.

"The Home Office has made a lot of mistakes with mass deportations in the past. Let's not repeat them. Let make sure when justice is done, it's done right, especially when children are involved, as they are in many of these cases."

Mr Byrne is challenging Conservative incumbent Andy Street in next year's mayoral elections in the West Midlands.

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