A Home Office deportation flight to Jamaica took off in the early hours of Wednesday morning with seven people onboard.
Some media reports said the Home Office initially had 100 people on the list of Jamaican nationals that officials hoped to remove.
Although the number was low it was more than the four who left on a Jamaica deportation flight last November. Four of the most recent flights had 17, 13, seven and four people onboard.
Home Office deportation flights to Jamaica are among the most contentious carried out by the department as many of those earmarked for removal have Windrush connections or have been in the UK since childhood, with children and other close relatives in the country. Some convicted of drugs and firearms offences as teenagers have been found to be victims of county lines grooming and exploitation.
At lunchtime on Tuesday, there were still almost 20 people due to fly but many had their tickets cancelled after legal actions were lodged on their behalf.
Among those who did not fly was Mark Nelson, who has lived in the UK for 22 years, has five British children and was facing deportation following a conviction for cultivating cannabis plants. A 34-year-old man with severe learning disabilities also had his ticket cancelled.
About 30 detainees not due to fly to Jamaica blocked the exercise yard at Colnbrook immigration removal centre near Heathrow airport on Tuesday evening to try to prevent officers from removing three men due to fly. The protest was dispersed and the three men were taken to Stansted airport to board the flight.
Tom Pursglove, minister for justice and tackling illegal migration, said those on the flight had received 58 convictions for 127 offences including rape of a minor, sexual assault against children, firearms offences and actual bodily harm.
“They are extremely serious offences, they are not minor matters,” he said, adding: “Public safety is non-negotiable. What we have seen is more last-minute claims from specialist law firms.”
Karen Doyle of Movement for Justice, an organisation that has been campaigning against Wednesday’s charter flight, said: “At 2am this morning we had to comfort a new mum whose family and future have been ripped apart. Today she has to tell their five-year-old daughter who dotes on her daddy that he’ll likely never again be in the same room as them. These flights are brutal and inhumane.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Those with no right to be in the UK, including foreign national offenders, should be in no doubt that we will do whatever is necessary to remove them. This is what the public rightly expects and why we regularly operate flights to different countries.
“The new plan for immigration will fix the broken immigration system and stop the abuse we are seeing by expediting the removal of those who have no right to be here.”