Reposted from Morning Star, 30/3/17. Text by Felicity Collier
17 arrests as lock-on stops charter plane taking asylum-seekers out of Britain
ACTIVISTS prevented a charter flight full of asylum-seekers from leaving Stansted Airport late on Tuesday night in an “unprecedented victory” against mass deportations.
End Deportations campaigners locked themselves to the wheel of a plane bound for Nigeria and Ghana. It had been chartered by the Home Office and scheduled to leave from a non-commercial runway to “forcibly deport” hundreds of asylumseekers, said campaign group Stop Charter Flights.
In a live video posted online it was reported that the pilot and cabin crew had gone home. Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants) and Plane Stupid also protested in the action, which saw 17 arrests, according to Essex Police.
“It is the first time campaigners have succeeded in stopping a Home Office charter flight from deporting people,” said the group.
One protester, Emma Hughes, said: “This is an unprecedented victory in the fight against mass deportations which are racist, violent and kill people.
“This plane was going to destroy the lives of dozens of people, which is why we had to stop it.
“We’ll keep fighting until the government agrees to stop charter flights and mass deportations once and for all.”
Sam Jones from LGSMigrants said: “The British government is snatching people from their beds in the dead of night, handcuffing them and forcing them onto planes with no witnesses.”
Susan James from Plane Stupid said: “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.”
End Deportations said many people with valid asylum claims are wrongly put on planes, as the high number of people being put on flights is leading to administrative errors. But many people cannot afford costly legal fees for British citizenship.
The website Detained Voices, which gives voice to those in detention centres in Britain, reported that one woman on the flight who had been refused asylum said: “I am a lesbian which is not OK in Nigeria.
“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 look after my children?”
A male deportee said: “I came to this country in 1999, to be with my brother and my sister. I have a wife here
“If they take me back to Ghana, I will kill myself.”
According to a Freedom of Information (FoI) request by End Deportations more than 1,500 people were deported on mass charter flights to Albania, Jamaica, Pakistan, Nigeria and Ghana last year.
A further FoI revealed that the average cost is £5,210 per person — and The Nigerian High Commission receives £3,500 for every charter flight of 50 people.
The Home Office has been organising mass deportations since 2002 largely to former British colonies every few months, the group said.
“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 nine-hour journey.”
Jimmy Mubenga died in 2014 after being restrained by security guards employed by notorious privateer G4S. Three security guards were acquitted of his manslaughter after a six-week trial.
It led to British Airways attendant Louise Graham unsuccessfully suing G4S after she had a “mental breakdown” and left her job.
The case prompted calls from Amnesty International and the Migrants’ Rights Network for the Home Office to initiate a “radical overhaul” of its systems.
You can sign a petition against mass deportations at mstar.link/2nMbv1H