The case of Osime Brown, a 22 year old, autistic, Black man who is facing deportation to a country he hasn’t set foot in since the age of four, is an appalling embodiment of the ableism, racism, and nativism systemic in the UK today.
Politicians and campaigners alike must do everything we can to prevent Osime’s deportation, but we must also use this moment to address the deep rooted issues that his case has shone a light on.
Firstly, we must urgently reform the principle of common law known as “Joint Enterprise”, under which Osime was sentenced to 5 years for the theft of a mobile phone, a crime the evidence suggests he was not directly involved in. Joint Enterprise allows multiple people to be sentenced for the same crime, and is overwhelmingly used to charge young Black men. According to one study, black people are overrepresented a staggering 11 times amongst those imprisoned under these laws, in part because of racist steretyping around gang culture. We must not ignore staggering statistics like this, and instead re-examine these outdated, unjust laws used to lock away hundreds of people each year.
Secondly, we must reverse cuts to educational support and invest in high quality autism support services. In Osime’s case the combination of austerity hit Special Educational Needs services and entrenched racism meant that instead of being diagnosed as austistic and receiving appropriate support, he was excluded. Black students are twice as likely to face exclusion, and students with special educational needs are six times more likely. Our overstretched and underfunded education system, makes it easier to exclude those with Special Educational Needs from the system, rather than provide them with support to stay school.
Finally, and perhaps most obviously, we must end the Hostile Environment in our immigration system. Osime’s case has once again shone a light on Home Office rules which mean that those considered foreign nationals who have been sentenced to 12 months or more in prison must be deported. This rule is based on a central belief of the Hostile Environment: for non-White people in the UK, no matter how long you have lived in Britain, in Osime’s case since the age of four, you will always remain a foreigner in the eyes of our Home Office. Despite the so-called Lessons Learned Report following the Windrush scandal, it appears in fact no lessons have been learnt at all. And now Osime faces deportation to a country where he has no family or support, merely because, despite the UK being the only country he calls home and having indefinite leave to remain, he is classed as non-British by those currently writing the rules.
In Osime’s case, the lethal combination of these three things has left him facing deportation to a country where he has no family or support. But this is not an isolated case and many others have and will suffer the same injustices at the hands of our judicial, education and immigration systems.
The Home Office must allow Osime Brown to remain with his family in the UK, his home, and grant an immediate public inquiry into this case, as requested by his mother. But this must not be a one off intervention for a special case. The government must learn the lessons from Osime’s case and reform Joint Enterprise, overhaul and invest in our schools and Special Educational Needs services, and end the Hostile Environment in our immigration system. And if they inevitably don’t, we must fight tooth and nail until they do, so that no one is put through what Osime and countless others continue to go through.
I have signed an Early Day Motion to halt Brown’s deportation, and continue to campaign against the Hostile Environment and for more support for Special Educational Needs and Disabilities. If you would like to join the campaign, you can sign and share the petition here.