Thousands of people have been forcibly removed from the UK and returned to Commonwealth countries on controversial Home Office charter flights, it can be revealed.
More than 7,600 people have been returned to countries including Pakistan, Nigeria, Ghana, Sri Lanka and Jamaica on charter flights escorted by teams of security personnel since 2010.
The flights are controversial because little is known about their operation and passengers can be handcuffed or fitted with leg and waist restraints.
The news comes as the Government faces mounting pressure over the Windrush crisis. It has taken the Home Office 16 months to respond after an FOI request in October 2016.
Campaigners concerned about the use of the flights also fear they will include cases of Commonwealth citizens being unjustly deported.
Luke de Noronha, an academic who has researched UK deportations, said: “There are people across the Commonwealth whose life stories and family lives are bound up in the history of the British Empire, whose families have been split apart by immigration controls.
“People are being deported who have lived in the UK for a long time – people whose parents, children, and siblings are British citizens.
“The issue with Windrush migrants doesn’t begin or end in 1973. These trans-national family connections continued and will keep going.
“It does feel uncomfortable that the UK is forcibly expelling people to former colonies on these charter flights, in secret, in the middle of the night.”
Zita Holbourne, a human rights campaigner, said: “It’s an insult that people are being removed in this way.”
The Home Office was last night approached for comment.