THE British Government has put a hold on the deportation of Jamaicans who have run afoul of the law in that country, as COVID-19 spreads across the United Kingdom (UK).
On February 11, almost 20 Jamaicans, with a combined sentence of 75 years and one life sentence, were deported from the UK to Jamaica on a charter flight.
More than 30 other Jamaicans were being held in detention centres awaiting deportation as they appealed the decision to send them home.
But yesterday, British High Commissioner to Jamaica Asif Ahmad hinted that there will be no deportations in this time of crisis.
“For now, there will be no charter flights coming to Jamaica. Anyone who needs to regularise their immigration status should contact the [British] Home Office,” said Ahmad.
He also urged Jamaicans in the UK, who may require an extension of stay, to contact the Home Office.
Ahmad was commenting on a statement by the British Home Office that individuals in the UK on visas would be able to extend their visas because of the novel coronavirus.
The Home Office said this will last until May 31, but will be kept under regular review in case further extensions are needed.
The extension, announced on Tuesday by Home Secretary Priti Patel, will apply to anyone whose visa expired after January 24, and who cannot leave the country because of travel restrictions or self-isolation.
Patel stressed that the UK continues to put the health and well-being of people first, and that nobody will be penalised for circumstances outside of their control.
“By extending people’s visas, we are giving people peace of mind and also ensuring that those in vital services can continue their work,” said Patel.
A dedicated COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within UK Visas and Immigration (UKVI) to make the process as straightforward as possible.
The Home Office said anyone who is in the UK and their visa has expired, just needs to contact UKVI, through the e-mail address CIH@homeoffice.gov.uk, to let them know their problem and they will be issued with an extension.
To help those who want to apply for visas to stay in the UK long term, the Home Office is also temporarily expanding the in-country switching provisions.
This will mean people can apply to switch routes, such as from Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (general worker), while remaining in the UK.
UKVI will also continue to process applications as quickly as possible. However, some applications may take longer than usual due to COVID-19-related operational pressures.
According to Ahmad, the decision is welcome in a time of global uncertainty.
At midday yesterday, the number of people who had tested positive for COVID-19 in the UK stood at 11,658 based on figures released by the British Department of Health.
A total of 104,866 people were tested with 93,208 negative results as of 9:00 am British time.
Just over 46 people have died from the virus in the UK, with London making up a third of the total.
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