‘It’s like a bereavement’: How the ‘brutal’ deportation of a Harlesden father to Jamaica has distressed his teenage children left behind

Anthea Hart. Picture: YouTube

Anthea Hart. Picture: YouTube - Credit: Archant

The wife of a Harlesden man who was forced by the government to leave his family and return to Jamaica has spoken of the distress his “brutal” last-minute deportation caused their teenage children.

Dad-of-two Paul Hart was one of 29 people deported to the Caribbean country last month. The government initially indicated many of those due to be expelled on February 6 – on the first charter flight since the Windrush scandal – were rapists and murderers. But Paul was among 14 on board convicted of drugs offences.

Anthea, his wife of 18 years, from Brent, has told the Times about the effect on their daughter, 16, and son, 13.

Paul moved to the UK 20 years ago, but without immigration status he was unable to work. Finances put a strain on their relationship and when they briefly separated a few years ago Paul made some “poor choices”, she says.

He was given a three-year jail term for a drug conviction. Immigration officers detained him without warning in January at a detention centre. Two weeks later Anthea received a phone call at 3am, giving her two hours to pack his suitcase.

“I had to tell the kids that not only was their dad going to be deported but he didn’t have any belongings,” said Anthea. “They were distressed and very confused. We got to Heathrow at 7am and they said: ‘You have five minutes to say goodbye’.”

The next they saw of Paul was news footage of his arrival.

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“After landing they were taken to the police station to see if they were wanted and literally left at the door with their belongings,” said Anthea. “I couldn’t locate him for 24 hours, and he was wandering up and down trying to work out where he was going.

“It’s almost like a bereavement. I’m still walking around in a bubble. Some of the solicitors involved are trying to understand whether their deportation was legal, but it certainly was unethical.”

Anthea doesn’t want to minimise Paul’s crime, but feels her husband is being made an example of.

“I haven’t done anything wrong and my children haven’t done anything wrong and even if he did something wrong he has served his sentence,” she said.

“To take him away from his family is something neither of us imagined.”

Unable to uproot her children, and unable to afford legal fees, her only hope now is the campaign group Movements for Justice. “We are told when you get deported it’s 10 years before you can even apply to return,” Anthea said.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “It is only right that we deport foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK. This ensures we keep the public safe.”