More than 100 public figures, including the former archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams and the Labour peer Alf Dubs, have written to the home secretary calling for her to stop the deportation of a man with autistm to Jamaica.
Osime Brown, 22, from Dudley, faces being sent to Jamaica, which he left when he was four, after being jailed over the robbery of a friend’s mobile phone, a crime he says he did not commit.
He was due to be transferred to an immigration detention centre in preparation for deportation to Jamaica, but following intervention from his lawyers, was allowed to return to his family in Dudley in October.
The case of Brown, who was convicted in 2018 and released in October, has shone a light on Home Office rules mandating that people considered foreign nationals who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison must be deported.
In a letter to Priti Patel, Williams, Dubs, the poet Benjamin Zephaniah, Amnesty International UK’s director, Kate Allen, the playwright Stephen Poliakoff, and more than 100 others said a tragedy was unfolding on the government’s watch.
It said they were seriously concerned that Brown, “a vulnerable, young, autistic and intellectually disabled man”, faced deportation to a country where he had no family or support, and called for the government to allow him to remain in the UK.
“As people who care about human rights, we believe that the de facto reintroduction of penal transportation for relatively minor offences is profoundly disturbing – as is the failure of this country to take responsibility for someone who has lived here since he was four years old,” said the letter, which was coordinated by the Labour Campaign for Free Movement.
It said there was no evidence he was a threat to anyone in the UK, and therefore questioned the public interest in his deportation.
“By contrast, the danger that he faces is extreme,” the letter said. “His mental and physical health have deteriorated dramatically during his imprisonment. With his high support needs and vulnerability to exploitation, his family fear that he will not survive on his own in Jamaica and that the planned deportation thereby amounts to a death sentence.
“This tragedy is unfolding in real time – on our watch – but it need not happen … We ask that you rescind the deportation order today and grant an immediate public inquiry into this case, as requested by Osime’s mother, Joan Martin.”
Allen said: “It is a grotesque injustice that children who grow up in this country continue to be excluded from their citizenship rights then threatened with banishment by the Home Office.”
Fifty-five MPs have backed calls to halt Brown’s deportation, with more than 300,000 people signing a petition to the same effect.
In 2007, the Labour government changed the law to ensure “foreign criminals” who had been sentenced to more than a year in prison would face automatic deportation upon their release. EU nationals will face the same punishment under the legislation after Brexit.
Joan Martin said her son was not articulate enough to speak for himself, but must now fight “to prove his innocence and end his nightmare”. Lawyers are preparing an appeal against his conviction and against the deportation order.
Martin said: “I cannot stop crying tears of joy that my son is home, but the pain still lingers because the deportation order still stands.
“I am so grateful for the love and support, those are the kindnesses that give me energy. We have endured so much pain and anguish over the past years; we are now left with the heartache and burden of caring for a broken child that they have recklessly and deliberately put through hell and left without any care plan for his physical and psychological rehabilitation.”
The Home Office said: “We only ever return those who we and, where applicable, the courts are satisfied do not need our protection and have no legal basis to remain in the UK.”
A spokesperson said Brown was convicted of robbery, attempted robbery and perverting the course of justice and sentenced to a total of five years’ detention. “It would be inappropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.”