FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE 29/03/17
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- Activists from End Deportations, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants) and Plane Stupid have last night (28 March) prevented the departure of a mass deportation charter flight from Stansted Airport
- 17 people arrested so far, according to police
- This is the first time this kind of direct action has successfully stopped a mass deportation charter flight.
- Campaigners says that the flight would have put people’s lives at risk and would have torn families apart.
Last night (28 March) activists blockaded the non-commercial runway at Stansted Airport by storming the tarmac and locking themselves around the wheel of the plane. The activists’ actions prevented the take-off of a mass deportation ‘charter flight’ to Nigeria and Ghana. The blockade was live-streamed on Stop Charter Flights’ Facebook Page. Police say they have arrested 17 people in connection with the protest.
Deportees on the flight included people who feared for their lives and had claimed asylum.
Campaigners hailed the protest as a success, explaining it was the first time a Home Office charter flight has been prevented from deporting people from the UK.
One of the protesters at the scene, Emma Hughes from End Deportations, said:
“This is an unprecedented victory in the fight against mass deportations which are racist, violent and endanger people’s lives. This flight was going to have horrific consequences for dozens of people, which is why we had to stop it. Last night was just the beginning – we’re joining forces with all those who are repulsed by the government’s inhumane mass deportations and we will stop charter flights once and for all.”
One woman who was due to be deported on the flight said:
“My ex-husband said he knows I am being deported. He is waiting for me. He is planning to kill me. If he kills me- who will I look after my children?” 
Another male deportee said:
“I have been in this country for almost 18 years. My family and my life is here in the UK. If they take me back to Ghana I will kill myself.” 
A family member of someone due to be deported said:
“I wanna say a big thank you. Because of you maybe my children will be able to see their father again who was meant to be on that flight. Last night I was in bits but today I can try and smile. They don’t realise how much they are ripping people from their lives and their dignity, and when you look for help nobody is there to help you. I cried myself to sleep last night because of my children’s dad being taking away from them, I am British my children are British but our voices are not being heard by anyone.”
There are numerous documented cases of people with valid asylum claims being wrongly put on mass deportation planes, as the high number of people placed on deportations flights is leading to grave administrative errors . One person deported on the last charter flight to Nigeria in January 2017 had not yet received a decision on his asylum claim, making his deportation unlawful. Both his parents were killed by Boko Haram and he fears the same will happen to him. 
Some of the people on the flight have been residing for decades in the UK with established livelihoods, spouses and children, many of whom have not been able to afford the extortionate legal fees required to regularise their citizenship status in the UK .
Sam Jones from Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants said:
“For too long the government has kept these brutal mass deportation flights under wraps. The UK government is snatching people from their beds in the dead of night, handcuffing them and forcing them onto planes with no witnesses. I don’t think that’s the kind of society most of us want to live in. We must stop these violent mass deportations now.”
Alex Thompson from End Deportations said:
“Like Trump’s Muslim ban, Theresa May’s mass deportation ‘charter flights’ are racist. These mass deportations target people based on the colour of their skin and their nationality. We must not stand by silently, while the Home Office attacks our neighbours, our colleagues and our friends.”
Susan James from Plane Stupid said:
“Mass deportations like the one we stopped tonight are immoral, unfair and illegal. I don’t want to stay silent in the face of mass deportations that are deliberately rushed and secretive.
“In the wake of the Brexit vote, this government is more keen than ever to be seen to be “tough” on immigration. But its mass deportations have devastating human consequences. Everything about these deportations points to the fact that they are inhuman, and must be stopped.”
Since 2002 the Home Office has organised mass deportations- largely to former British colonies- every few months. Mass deportation flights are notoriously secretive and devoid of scrutiny, departing from undisclosed locations in the middle of the night. Every single deportee is escorted and shackled in a seat between two guards, who regularly employ the same violent restraints that caused the death of Jimmy Mubenga in 2010 . On a charter flight to Jamaica in 2016 men reported being treated ‘like animals,’ strapped with tight body belts and unable to move throughout the entire 9-hour journey.
To fill seats on the plane, large numbers of people are rounded up and detained before being sent “back”, in many cases to a country they have never visited. “Reserve” deportees are taken to the airport to fill up the places of individuals whose lawyers are successful in making last-minute challenges. The people who are ‘reserves’ are not told whether they will be deported on the flight right up until they are either put on the plane, or the plane departs.
People are given little advance notice of their removal- often meaning they have just a few days to fight for their right to stay in the UK. Cuts to legal aid means that the vast majority of those with children or partners in the UK who have valid human rights-based claims to stay can’t afford to access legal help.
Mass deportation charter flights are part of Theresa May’s stated mission to create a “hostile environment”  for migrants in the UK. To this end, the UK government has pushed through a raft of policies which obstruct and dissuade migrant communities from accessing the education, health and housing services that they are by law entitled to use.
NOTES FOR EDITOR
End Deportations is a campaign group fighting for the abolition of deportations and detention centers.
Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants) is an LGBT+ group inspired by the 1980s Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners take creative action to stand in solidarity with migrant communities.
Plane Stupid is an environmental and social justice direct action group.
- Last year, over 1,536 people were deported from the UK via controversial mass deportation charter flights to Albania, Jamaica, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana [source: FOI]
- The average cost of a mass deportation flight is £5210 per person. The Nigerian High Commission receives £3500 for every charter flight of 50 people [source: FOI]
 Home Office figures show last year over 50% of people who were put on charter flights were taken off thanks to last-minute legal challenges and the use of “reserves” whereby more people are given tickets than there are seats on the plane.