Urgent Action Appeals are usually contacting organisations, companies, etc. involved in a deportation and appealing to them to use the autonomy they have to stop a deportation.
They are small acts of resistance that have been and continue to be effective in stopping deportations. They require mass mobilisation as many people need to ring in order to have an effect.
PHONING AN AIRLINE
Phoning an airline to ask them to refuse to carry a specific individual passenger can be quite daunting so here are some tips that might help.
When you call the airline, you will need the person’s Name, Flight Details and Home Office Reference Number. You do not have to say who you are, other than that you are a concerned member of the public, shocked that an airline like theirs would participate in forced removal.
People have lots of different ways of talking to people in these situations – some people are very harsh, some people prefer to be very calm. It’s important to remember that the people you are speaking to are not police and not immigration, that they can’t “get you into trouble”, as you are just a member of the public making a complaint.
You are asking the airline to “refuse to participate in this forced removal and not allow the person to be taken on the flight”. You are making them aware that the person is in grave risk of danger (or even death) if removed to their country. You are asking them to make the pilot aware of the removal, and of any details it feels appropriate to share (eg. “this person has an open case” or “they are not actually from the country where this flight is going”).
Pilots have the discretionary power to take people off their flights. If we are doing an action appeal for someone it is likely we will be briefing them about trying to catch the attention of the public or the pilot when on the plane. If the pilot can already be aware that there is a person being removed and, crucially, public awareness of this, they may be moved to act. Many people that Unity have supported have been taken off flights after members of the public have complained or after the pilot has seen it as “too much trouble”. One woman we know was taken on the first flight successfully but when they tried to board her onto her second flight, from Paris to Ivory Coast, the pilot could see that she had been injured and was greatly distressed and the Home Office had to bring her back to the UK.
This is not a nice point to make, but historically people have been killed in this process. Most famously, in October 2010, Jimmy Mubenga was murdered by G4S guards, on a British Airways plane deporting him from Heathrow, London. This is, obviously, not good press for airlines and it’s worth reminding them that this kind of thing can happen.
If you call and the person you are speaking to is making the conversation hard for you, you can ask to speak to a manager. If they refuse, you can simply hang up and dial again.
If you can tweet/email/facebook the airline, this is a very useful tactic. If enough people engage or smear them on social media, their social media team have to work more to keep their public pages free from the truth. Airlines, like any other capitalist companies, want the world to think they’re “good”, and having the realities of their participation in this system all over their social media washes that away fairly quickly.
It’s important to remember just how many awful things the Home Office and all of the organisations and companies that work with it get away with purely because people are not watching them. A real difference can be made if these organisations and companies realise that we are watching them, and that the public is aware of what they are doing. If enough people take action – both by smearing these airlines and by trying to persuade their workers to act, people can get off flights. Remember, these workers are also people and many of them will feel something about what their company is doing, and can possibly be motivated to act. Solidarity means all standing together against the racist infrastructure of forced removals from this country, whether in our jobs, in our lunch-breaks or at home.
RINGING A RECEIVING COUNTRY’S HIGH COMMISSION
The High Commission of a receiving country of a deportation are in charge of issuing travel documents required for a deportation to take place. They directly profit from charter flights: the Nigerian High Commission is paid by the UK Home Office £70 per travel document issued – that’s over £3500 for a charter flight (which leave for Nigeria every 2 months).
If a receiving country refuses to issue travel documents it can mean that deportations are not possible to that country – for example, Zimbabwe currently refuses to issue travel documents to people held in detention in the UK, and so many Zimbabwean nationals were released from detention as they were unable to be deported from the UK.
Detainees have called on people to ring the High Commissions of receiving countries of deportations such as Nigeria and ask them to stop colluding with the UK Home Office.
The Nigerian High Commission states that “before any Nigerian is deported, the High Commission always insists that: their citizenship has been proved beyond reasonable doubt; they are medically fit; they are allowed to exhaust all their legal remedies; for those who have stayed in the UK for more than 15 years, proof of existence of friends and relations as well as capacity to reintegrate.”
This statement can be understood to be completely false, as the Nigerian government is paid by the Home Office to interview people in detention and issue them with emergency travel documents – even when these conditions have not been met. The corruption of the Nigerian Government by the UK was alluded to by David Cameron himself. The Unity Centre has seen copious numbers of individuals that fail to meet these requirements. Ola (not his real name) was born in Belgium (with a Belgium birth certificate), and had lived in the UK for 17 years before he was deported last November to Nigeria – despite having no connections to the country (with no family or records there), and the fact that the Nigerian High Commission previously refused to issue travel documents for him in 2013. Detainees are often identified as Nigerian by the High Commission based on arbitrary indicators such as the markings on their face. In some cases, it has even been acknowledged by the Nigerian High Commission that individuals being issued with travel documents are not Nigerian, as one detainee said he was greeted by Mrs. Ngere, a Deputy Immigration Officer, as her “Eritrean brother”.
The Unity Centre has been in contact with individuals who have been so unsuitable to fly that, in one instance, a detainee was taken to the airport in an ambulance, and subsequently deported on a charter flight. Upon request of the Home Office, the Nigerian High Commission issue travel documents to individuals (both inside and outside of detention) regardless of what stage they have reached in their immigration case – demonstrating their disregard of whether someone has “exhaust[ed] all their legal remedies” or not. Whilst the Nigerian High Commission claims to examine the relations someone may hold to the country they face deportation to, theyfail to acknowledge the immediate family members one has in the UK, such as a partner and children. Ray (not his real name) stated: “Immigration Judges tell us we can maintain our family life over Skype. But how can you take your child to school through Skype? How can you have a relationship with your wife over Skype?”