PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Michael Mansfield to Represent Campaigners who Blocked Mass Deportation Flight
AS PANORAMA G4S REPORT AIRS, ANTI DEPORTATION CAMPAIGNERS IN COURT
Michael Mansfield QC will represent campaigners from the groups End Deportations, Lesbian and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants) and Plane Stupid, who blocked a plane on the non-commercial slipway at Stansted Airport to prevent a mass deportation charter flight to Nigeria and Ghana.
In an unprecedented move, the CPS have charged the campaigners with a Terrorism related offence under the Aviation and Maritime Security Act 1990.
The plea hearing is on the 4th of September at 10:00am in Chelmsford Crown Court, the same day that BBC airs a new Panorama undercover report into violence by G4S staff towards detainees inside immigration detention near Gatwick airport.
The Panorama report shows G4S officers, now suspended, “mocking, abusing and assaulting” people held in detention . According to the Home Office many of these same people will face forced deportation using charter flights like the one the campaigners appearing in court today prevented.
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 deportation flights is leading to grave administrative errors . Many of the people on the flight have expressed fears that they will be killed on return. One LGBT asylum-seeker said: “The present Nigerian situation is designed to kill gay people.”
Some of the people on deportation flights 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.
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 “reserve”’ 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 those with children or partners in the UK who have valid human rights-based claims to stay can’t access legal help without paying extortionate fees
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 THE 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. They 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 BBC Panorama report ‘Undercover: Britain’s Immigration Secrets’ will air on Monday 4th September at 9pm on BBC1.
 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.
New Internationalist: https://newint.org/blog/2017/03/29/plane-stupid-stansted-action/
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