Last year, 15 people grounded a deportation charter flight for ten hours to prevent it taking off. Next Monday (19th March), they are standing trial, charged with a terrorism-related offence that could result in life imprisonment!
(Update – the orginal start date of the trial was Mon 12th – this has now been moved to Monday 19th)
Why have activists taken such a drastic action? Charter flight removals/deportations are one of the shadiest aspects of the UK’s asylum and immigration process. Shielded from public oversight, information protected from freedom of information requests, every month these ‘ghost flights’ forcibly remove people en masse from the UK.
Charter flight removals/deportations can take place to Pakistan, Kosovo/Albania, Afghanistan, and Nigeria/Ghana. Some of these take place monthly (at one point, charter flight removals/deportations were leaving for Afghanistan fortnightly). See more here in our summary of Corporate Watch’s factsheet. Charter flight routes are agreed between the UK and other states at the highest political and diplomatic levels.
The Detained Voices blog captured some of the statements from people on that flight:
“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?”
“Both of my parents are in the UK, they are British. But they [the Home Office] want to deport me back to place where I don’t have anybody. Nobody hear our cry. We are crying. Please we need to be rescued. Please can anybody helps us?”
“My doctor confirmed that I didn’t [wasn’t] fit to fly and I did [was] not fit to be detained here and the Home Office wouldn’t do anything about it. They didn’t reply, and they still want to force me to back home.”
The Green Party is calling on the Crown Prosecution Service to drop the charges against protesters, with co-leader Jonathan Bartley stating the charges are ‘trumped up’ and a ‘disgrace’. Last week, shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott called for the end of charter flights in her speech on Labour values & immigration policy. An end to charter flights is one of the demands from the 120 people on hunger strike at Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre.
As a result of the group’s action last year, 34 of the 57 people onboard the charter flight were given a chance to continue their asylum claims. Moreover, as with the hunger strikers in Yarl’s Wood, they are putting themselves on the line to challange one of the worst practices of our immigration system.
Campaigners are calling for people to come and support the defendants and speak out against deportation charter flights on the first day of the trial (Monday 19th March), and throughout the 4-6 weeks it is expected to last.
JOIN US outside Chelmsford Crown Court to support the defendants, to demand the charges are dropped, and to demand an end to deportation charter flights.
8:30am, Monday 19th March. Please arrive promptly.
Chelmsford Crown Court,
New Street, Chelmsford, Essex, CM1 1EL
There will be a coach leaving at 7am, from Liverpool Street Station. Please arrive by 6.45am as the coach can’t wait for late comers.
Book your seat in advance here:
Tickets are on a sliding scale:
// £16 return (waged)
// £10 return (unwaged)
// Free for those with experience of the immigration / asylum process
*If you’re unable to pay, please email us at email@example.com, and we will help.
**Please let us know if you need wheelchair access, so we can tell the coach company in advance if they need to remove seats**
There are also trains from Liverpool St station to Chelmsford.
COME READY TO EXPRESS YOUR SOLIDARITY, ENERGY, LOVE AND RAGE, BE IT IN SONG, MUSIC, SPOKEN WORD, BANNERS OR CHANTING, AS WE RALLY IN SUPPORT OF THE STANSTED DEFENDANTS, AND AGAINST DEPORTATION CHARTER FLIGHTS.
*Sign up to the Trial Public Gallery Rota!*
The trial is scheduled to last for 4-6 weeks, and supporters are encouraged to attend in the public gallery, so sign up here! Days will usually be from 10am – 4pm.