Armed with 200 fake adverts, we replaced ads on the on the Piccadilly, Victoria and Central lines, which serve London’s major airports, with instructions on how passengers can stop deportations on commercial airlines.
Our aim is to highlight how everyday people can help stop the government’s brutal deportations and potentially save a life.
Every 49 minutes, someone is taken from their life in the UK to another country, by force. This brutal system of deportations results in people being torn away from their families and sent to countries where they have little or no connection. Countries they have often not stepped foot in for years. Countries that are impoverished. Countries that are unsafe. A prime example of this is Afghanistan, where, despite the Home Office acknowledging it to be the least peaceful country in the world after Syria, they have still risked thousands of lives by forcibly deporting people there. The Home Office say that only people who are not legally allowed in the country are deported but the Windrush scandal proves that this is not the case.
The process of deportation is one mired in violence. Accompanied by two private security guards, people are often shackled and restrained for the duration of the flight. This can have fatal consequences. On 12th October 2010, Jimmy Mubenga was scheduled to be deported on a British Airways flight from Heathrow. He was brutally restrained by G4S guards who pinned him down despite being handcuffed to the seat. He was heard letting out what a flight attendant described as ‘harrowing howls’ as he screamed that he could not breathe. He was killed on that British Airways flight, in front of passengers and crew.
This morning, we travelled to Heathrow airport to talk to passengers about what they can do if they see a deportation is taking place on their flight. As we chatted to passengers at the BA check in desk I was struck by how few people were aware of this practice. Passengers were shocked to learn that the company reuniting their families this Christmas was tearing others apart. British Airways don’t want their passengers knowing that they profit from the governments racist hostile environment. But we need to know and we need to take a stand.
When Swedish student Elin Errson bravely refused to take her seat on a flight leaving from Gothenburg airport in July, she successfully stopped the deportation of an Afghan man. Ordinary people can stop these deportations – the posters that we placed on the tube this morning and the leaflets we gave to passengers at Heathrow show how passengers can do this. They advised passengers to “See it – Say It – Stop It”. To ask and look out for a deportation on their flight, to talk to the person being deported and to the pilot, and to take a stand, like Elin, and refuse to sit down until the deportation is halted.
Last year, activists from LGSMigrants and other groups made headlines by grounding a charter deportation flight from Stansted airport. Charter flights refer to the brutal home office practice, where people of the same nationality are rounded up and shipped out of the UK on a secret, night-time private flight. Of the 60 people on the flight halted by the Stansted 15, 11 now remain legally in the UK.
In June, after pressure from LGSMigrants and others, Virgin Atlantic cancelled their contract for deportations with the Home Office, saying it was “in the best interests of our customers and people”. This showed us that airlines can make the decision to stand up to the home office and inspired us, this International Migrants’ Day, to ask commuters and customers to pile the pressure on BA and get them to follow suit.
We call on companies that are complicit in deportations to take a stand and pledge to no longer participate in this brutal practise of deportations. We must make our voices heard, as passengers and as people, to stand in solidarity with migrants and call to end deportations.
If you would like to do more, we urge you to sign these petitions calling on BA to stop deporting people, calling for the end to the Hostile Environment and deportation charter flights, and no prison sentences for the #Stansted15.