The forced removal of over 50 people from their homes on a charter flight to Jamaica in September last year renewed outrage over the mass forced removals being carried out via charter flights – and heated debate. Those with young children were advised by the Home Office to “do their parenting via Skype” 4,500 miles away. Most had spent their formative years in the UK and have British families. One of the fathers from that plane writes:
“I feel like I’ve been kidnapped.”
“I was one of the 42 people deported, taken from my partner and kids to a country where I have nothing and know no one. I lived in the UK for 17 years, since I was 14… The lawyers in the UK took all my money, and now I have so little I can’t even afford a bed to sleep on. I can’t find a job and I have no family here. My kids in the UK need clothes and food that my wife can’t afford with the small support given to her. I don’t care about myself I just want to help my kids. Why hurt my kids too?” – anonymous blog post, Deported Voices
But stories like this one have galvanised grassroots resistance to charter flight removals and today marks the beginning of two consecutive and international weeks of action against this government’s policy of mass deportation.
What’s it all about?
Charter flights are about the routine and systematic removal, by force, of large numbers of people to a select list of countries, decided and enforced at the highest political level. As many immigration raids and arrests will occur as needed to fill up these massive planes, in order to minimise costs. According to the Corporate Watch report, these mass removals are a motivated by: the need to meet immigration targets; stifling rebellion; as a so-called ‘deterrent’; and as a bargaining chip in foreign policy negotiations with destination governments.
“Charter flights are targeting long-established African, Asian and Caribbean communities in Britain – dividing families and deporting people who have built lives in the UK, who have parents, partners and children here, people who have lived most of their lives in Britain, students who have not finished their courses, those who have sought asylum and protection, people with serious health problems and others who are long-term carers to elderly and disabled relatives. Targeting so many people who are integrated members of their communities and wider society is a divisive act of racist discrimination.” – End Deportations
Forced removal charter flights currently run to Nigeria, Ghana, Jamaica, Pakistan and Albania. Afghanistan is soon to be added to the list. In August 2015 there was an emergency ban on charter flights to Afghanistan due to escalating conflict in the country, but it has now been lifted. As former barrister and renowned immigration expert Frances Webber writes, this is the first formal ‘deal’“to stipulate the return of citizens whose country is in the grip of an intensifying war” although the British government admits that since 2007, “over 3,000 child refugees had been forcibly returned to countries at war once they turned 18 – including 657 to Iraq and over 2000 to Afghanistan.”
What’s going on during the weeks of action?
Several migrant-led demonstrations have been called at key sites across London and are listed below. If you cannot join the protest, please help spread the word.
There are also protests planned in Nigeria and Jamaica, and various actions planned in local communities across the UK. In addition, organisers are appealing to independent groups and individuals to target and apply pressure to Titan Airways, which provides many of the charter planes, and Tascor who provide the ‘escorts’ which independent investigators have found to be employing ‘inhumane’ practices including lying to detainees about whether and when they will be forcibly removed.
TAKE ACTION: See below for the list of key actions planned, but the End Deportations events calendar is being constantly updated – to check for updates click here. You can also email firstname.lastname@example.org
LEARN MORE: to find out more about charter flights and mass removals, check out our summary of Corporate Watch’s 2017 factsheet based on its report: Collective Expulsion: the case against mass deportation charter flights.
- 7th January, Wolf Whistled’s Day of Doing focused on Feminism & Xenophobia. Workshop on the UK’s deportation regime, charter flights and resistance. Facebook event here.
- 9th January, London: Demonstration at the Kenyan High Commission – organised by Zimbabwe Human Rights Organisation. Protesting Kenya’s government-run airline Kenya Airways, that is used to remove Zimbabweans against their will from the UK – details here.
- 11th January, London: Demonstration at the Nigerian High Commission – organised by Movement for Justice. Facebook event here.
- 11th January, Demonstration at the British Deputy High Commission in Lagos, Nigeria – organised by the Nigerian Deportation Group.
- 14th January, London: Demonstration and march against charter flights and their impacts on communities in the UK in Brixton – organised by Movement for Justice. Facebook event here.
- 17th January, Demonstration at the British High Commission in Kingston, Jamaica – organised by people deported on the charter flight to Jamaica of September 7th 2016. Facebook event here.
- 21st January, London: Demonstration and march against charter flights and their impacts on communities in the UK in Peckham – organised by Movement for Justice. Facebook event here.
- 21st January, Public campaigning against Titan Airways & Tascor, Newcastle city centre – organised by the Migration Asylum Justice Forum. Facebook event here.
- 25th January, London: National Union of Students march for international students from SOAS, central London. Facebook event here.
- Date TBA, Info night on charter flights, Glasgow – organised by The Unity Centre.