Our fight to avoid John Freddy’s deportation

John Freddy Suarez Santander arrived in this country along with his family more than 15 years ago, when he was only six years old. Unfortunately, when he was 17 he committed a criminal offence and was sent to a young offenders’ institute for seven months. Two years after his release, the government implemented a law to the effect that immigrants with criminal records should face deportation. John Freddy was arrested and served with a deportation order. With the support of his family he then began a long legal battle, which is now awaiting judgment in the European Court of Human Rights.

There are various arguments being presented to the Court:

  1. He is being punished twice for a criminal act that he has already served time for by being sentenced to prison and then being given an additional punishment of deportation.
  2. It is against the principles of international law for a law to be applied retrospectively. The British government law to deport people with criminal records was passed a year and a half after John Freddy was sentenced.
  3. The European Court has said that criminal acts committed by youngsters should not be treated as a criminal record, but as the basis on which to rehabilitate them into society. Five years on from his sentence, John Freddy has committed no further criminal offences and has been completely rehabilitated.

All his family (parents, brothers, aunties and uncles, grandfather etc) are now British citizens. John Freddy has never returned to Colombia since leaving as a child and has no relatives there. In addition, he is now father to a baby boy who is almost three years of age and lives in Britain.

As a family we campaigned against John Freddy’s deportation. On 28 May, as a last resort, we went to the airport with a letter addressed to passengers on the flight that he was going to be deported on, appealing to their consciences and asking them to refuse to board because the flight was being used to deport a young man whose rights were being violated.

We met at the airport three hours before the flight departure, wearing white T-shirts with John’s picture. Many of the passengers took our letters, including passengers on other flights who approached us for them. But problems soon began. The police arrived and gave us an order to leave in 15 minutes. We told them why we were demonstrating and that we were determined not to move until the deportation order was cancelled.

A while later the police informed us that John Freddy would not be on that flight. This was excellent news, but we did not completely believe it so continued our demonstration until John Freddy himself called us to confirm his deportation order had been cancelled. There was loud applause in the airport, and between tears and shouts we all hugged each other. It was hard work but we had achieved our objective and the deportation order had for now been cancelled.

On Monday 15 June, after waiting all day in court, John Freddy was released on bail and was able to return to his home, to the joy of his young son and all his family. His case has not yet been fully resolved; we’re looking forward to the European Court ruling and hope to make the British government recognise the rights of John Freddy to stay with his family.

The Suarez Santander family calls upon everyone to fight against deportations, not only for John, but for all of us immigrants. It is our duty to unite with our brothers and sisters who are being persecuted and victimised to defend our rights.

Elizabeth Santander
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

FRFI 210 August / September 2009


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