Active Charter Flight Routes

New briefing on mass deportation charter flights available online

New briefing on mass deportation charter flights available online

Corporate Watch and Stop Deportation have released a new briefing on deportations, focusing on the Home Office’s use of charter flights. The 48-page briefing, entitled Collective Expulsion: The Case Aginst Britain’s Mass Deportation Charter Flights can be downloaded here, or you can buy a hard copy from the Corporate Watch online shop.

You can read a review of our report on the Pluto Press blog here, as well as a photo-essay of a recent mass deportation charter flight for more information on the topic.

Preface

This report examines the British state’s most secretive and draconian immigration controls: mass deportation charter flights. The policy has existed in the shadows for over a decade, evading popular criticism and any meaningful review. Away from the public gaze, using specially chartered aircraft, the immigration authorities try to get rid of as many unwanted migrants as possible.

Indeed, these mass deportation charter flights are becoming the standard method of conducting enforced deportations to a growing list of destination countries. There is now at least one flight a week to ‘popular destinations’, such as Afghanistan, Pakistan and Nigeria, which are often closely linked to the UK’s most controversial foreign policy adventures. Yet, the programme was, and is still being, sold to the public on the basis of unfounded myths and outright lies, which have gone unchallenged for far too long.

The UK Home Office has used specially chartered flights to deport rejected refugees and migrants en masse for 12 years now. The policy was introduced in 2001 ostensibly to save ‘taxpayers money’ and effect high ‘volume removals’ of people who refuse to ‘cooperate’ with the immigration authorities. Officials have also claimed the programme was designed to send a clear message, both to the British public and to migrant communities, that the UK is serious about enforcing its ‘tough’ immigration policy.

This report examines in detail each of these and other deceptions underpinning the programme and debunks them using previously unpublished data covering the first 10 years of the programme. The sources used range from Freedom of Information requests, statistical analysis of official figures, court cases, government reports and media articles, in addition to case studies based on testimonies from migrants deported on these flights or organisations that worked with them.

Having debunked the myths, the authors then attempt to unravel the ‘ulterior motives’ behind the UK’s deportation charter flights, bringing to light little-known statements by government officials, secretive meetings and dodgy political deals. The motives examined range from a targets culture introduced by Labour and maintained by the current, Conservative-led coalition government, to the political agendas revolving around the UK’s foreign policy and its disciplining of migrant diaspora communities.

The next section explores a number of important legal questions concerning mass deportation flights, delving into the murky depths of European and UK case law, international treaties and other legal instruments. Among other things, the authors argue that deportation charter flights constitute a de facto policy of ‘collective expulsion’ and must, therefore, be prohibited. Even without this argument, a number of procedural issues that can be used to challenge the legality of these flights are also explored in detail. This is followed by two short sections on specific issues with significant legal implications: overbooking and the use of ‘reserves’, and the more recent use of monitors and doctors on mass deportation flights.

It is important to remember that, unlike deportations on scheduled flights, there are often no commercial and procedural barriers to the exceptional, brutal policies and practices surrounding mass deportation charter flights. There are also no other passengers to witness what happens on these flights, as some passengers did in the famous case of Jimmy Mubenga, leading to shocking revelations about the use of fatal restraint techniques and racist language. On charter flights, immigration officers and private security guards can get away with virtually anything, as they often do, in order to enforce the government’s ‘tough’ immigration policy. Hence, this report not only calls for the immediate halt of the deportation charters programme on the basis of detailed factual findings and legal arguments, but also challenges different practices and procedures that have been institutionalised or taken for granted during the 12 years of this little-known-about programme.

A note on the language: throughout the report, the authors use the words ‘removal’ and ‘deportation’ interchangeably, even though the two terms have different meanings in law and official jargon. ‘Administrative removal’ is a power enjoyed by normal Home Office immigration case workers who can decide, as they often do, to remove someone from the country after their immigration or asylum claim has been refused. Deportation, on the other hand, is used for foreign national offenders who have been sentenced to a criminal sentence of 12 months or more and are then deported – whether with or without a court order – as a second punishment because they are ‘not conducive to the public good’.

The interchangeable use of the two terms, or using ‘deportation’ for both, is a conscious choice: the authors of the report believe deportation should not be an administrative power or an additional punishment (the latter issue is explored in depth in the section on foreign national prisoners). The same goes for the interchangeable use of immigration prisons, (administrative) detention centres and immigration removal centres (IRCs), as they are officially called now.

In a similar vein, the terms ‘migrants’ or ‘migrants and refugees’ are often used by the authors for all types of migrants, unless a legal distinction is necessitated by a specific context. Derogatory, stigmatising and often inaccurate terms, such as ‘failed asylum seekers’, ‘illegal immigrants’ and so on, are used by politicians and the media to divide migrants into ‘good’ and ‘bad’ ones, legitimate and illegitimate, then demonise and illegalise those who do not not fit one of these artificially constructed, politically motivated categories. The authors believe that people choose or are forced to migrate for a wide variety of reasons and should be able to travel and live wherever they want or need to.

Whilst writing this report, the UK Border Agency (UKBA) was split into two separate operational units: Visas & Immigration and Immigration Enforcement. It is the latter that is responsible for most of the policies and practices covered in this report (detention, deportation, etc.). The head of the unit is David Wood, who also features in the report as the previous head of Criminality and Detention within the UKBA.

Thanks are due to Frances Webber, Juliane Heider, Bethan Bowett-Jones, Amanda Sebestyen, Sita Balani and everyone else who helped us with this report, whether by providing information or financial support, reading or commenting. Thanks are also due to the detainees and deportees who shared their tragic experiences with us. It is to them, and all the other migrants and refugees who have faced and will face similar fates, that we dedicate this report.

Advertisements

Police clash with early hour protest outside Heathrow detention centre over hunger-striker deportation row

Police clash with dawn siege at Heathrow migrant jail over hunger-striker deportation row

Updated Press Release – 7.20am -29 November 2013

Harmondsworth-police-protest-1-b

Police arrived outside Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre at 4am. One man was arrested at 7am.

Supporters of Nigerian hunger-striker Isa Muazu are blocking access to Harmondsworth detention centre (outside Heathrow) to stop his deportation scheduled for 8 am. A man super-glued his hand to the detention centre main gate at 4am, flanked by a crowd of 15 steely campaigners. A specialist police unit took several hours to remove the glue. The man was arrested at 7am.

Detention centre guards initially used dogs and pressure points but failed to ward off the early bird demonstration. Supporters feared the Home Office was about to move Muazu to the airport at the crack of dawn.

A private jet is reported to be on standby, but critics say he is too weak to survive the flight, having refused food for nearly 100 days. Muazu’s case is a cause célèbre, with eminent actors and artists delivering a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May yesterday demanding she show clemency on his case. Campaigners in Glasgow protested outside the Air Charter Scotland HQ yesterday, calling on the company not to operate Muazu’s deportation flight.

Isa Muazu’s injunction was refused around midnight. His solicitor is understood to be launching an appeal.

A spokesperson for the group, Jane Simmonds, 24, from Clapham, commented “Why has it even got this far? The Home Office should never have considered deporting Isa given his medical condition. The legal process has been hijacked by Theresa May’s hard-line politics. Campaigners were left with no option apart from physically blocking the deportation in the early hours of this morning”.

Links:

Media coverage of Isa Muazu’s case

http://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2013/nov/26/release-isa-muazu-save-life

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/private-jet-standing-by-to-deport-close-to-death-hunger-striker-isa-muazu-to-nigeria-8970692.html

http://www.channel4.com/news/hunger-strike-protest-court-nigeria-isa-muazu

http://www.politics.co.uk/news/2013/11/28/isa-muazu-campaigners-pin-hopes-on-last-minute-injunction

Campaign details

http://unitycentreglasgow.org/?page_id=877

Harmondsworth-police-protest-2-b

UKBA deportation to Nigeria tonight – call embassy

URGENT ACTION APPEAL

9 October, 2013

Over 60 vulnerable people face deportation to Nigeria at 8.30 TONIGHT on a specially ‘chartered flight’ [number PVT 090] organised by the Home Office and departing from an undisclosed UK airport.

In recent weeks, Nigerian authorities allegedly turned away two deportation charter flights because they could not process so many nationals returned from the UK at once. This is according to the Unity Centre in Glasgow, a refugee charity who are in contact with several asylum-seekers booked on the flight. Unity say “legal aid funding restrictions have prevented lawyers from taking on deportee’s asylum cases even when there is new evidence.”

“Many individuals on this flight have not had access to a fair trial. There has not been time to assist each individual sufficiently with their case to effectively prevent their removal on this particular flight.” The group add that one man was only booked on the flight yesterday: “he has no lawyer and less than no time to prepare”

The situation is made more difficult by the UK Border Agency who are moving detainees between different immigration detention centres in preparation for tonight’s flight. Unity say that an LGBT asylum-seeker “was moved on the day of his surgery with a lawyer which greatly delayed his access to legal help”.

Unity are calling for anyone who can to call the Nigerian High Commission and urge them to try to stop the current charter flight.

Anyone who has time please call the number below and let them know of your concern for many of the individuals on this flight and urge them that they do not have to be party to this inhumane method of mass deportation but that the merits of each immigration case should be considered fully and not rushed in order to fill mass charter flights which is what is occurring.

Nigerian High Commission

Phone: 0207 839 1244
extention 277, alternatively just press 0 during the main menu of options.

Fax: 020 7839 8746

Or online message
http://www.nigeriahc.org.uk/enquiries

HMIP publishes deportation ‘concerns’ before Pakistan flight

Prison inspector publishes deportation ‘concerns’ ahead of Pakistan flight tonight

PRESS RELEASE from Corporate Watch, 1 October 2013

Movement for Justice protest outside Home Office today

Movement for Justice protest outside Home Office today

The Chief Inspector of Prisons published today a report raising “a number of concerns about the overseas escorts” employed by the Home Office for deportation flights. The stark warning comes as 30 detainees at Yarl’s Wood are on hunger-strike in protest at a mass deportation to Pakistan this evening. Supporters from the ‘Movement for Justice’ (MFJ) are gathered outside the Home Office this afternoon. A spokesperson from the group said that “five of the eight women facing deportation to Pakistan tonight have experienced or witnessed sexual harassment from male officers in Yarl’s Wood. The attempt to deport the witnesses is part of the Home Office’s desperate attempts to cover up the scandal”.

The Inspection took place during the summer at Brook House, an Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) outside Gatwick Airport run by G4S. The overseas escorts are provided by Tascor, another private security company who will be taking the Pakistani women from Yarl’s Wood to an undisclosed airport tonight. In a statement that appears to corroborate the MFJ’s concerns, the prison inspector said “If allegations of assault were made by a detainee during removal, which were supported by medical evidence, the Home Office did not delay removal pending a police investigation”. The inspection team “also saw physical and verbal intimidation of a detainee”, describing how “an escort, taller and bigger than him, came close to him and said that if he had to be placed in handcuffs he would need to explain to the receiving authorities why he did not want to return to their country, implying that he would experience rough treatment”.

The Inspector also said “the practice of taking detainees to the airport as standbys continued and it remained inhumane and unacceptable”, a reference to the practice of ‘reserves’ which the Home Affairs Select Committee has called to be stopped.

ENDS

Prison Inspector quotes taken from para’s 4.32 and 4.34 of http://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/publications/inspectorate-reports/hmipris/immigration-removal-centre-inspections/brook-house/brook-house-2013.pdf

Yarl’s Wood women: “We are not street dogs”

Yarl’s Wood women: “We are not street dogs”

PRESS RELEASE from Corporate Watch

Over 30 women are on hunger strike at the notorious Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire, with half of them facing deportation to Pakistan tomorrow on a specially chartered flight. Corporate Watch takes a look at the deals between London and Islamabad on security, trade and aid, arguing that asylum-seekers are being treated as bargaining chips in these negotiations.

British Home Secretary Theresa May met her Pakistani counter-part last Tuesday and praised him for  “adopting a zero tolerance approach to illegal migration”. Photo: BHC Islamabad

British Home Secretary Theresa May met her Pakistani counter-part last Tuesday and praised him for “adopting a zero tolerance approach to illegal migration”. Photo: BHC Islamabad

The women on hunger strike, many of whom are seeking asylum from gender-based persecution, are detained at Yarl’s Wood – itself the scene of an ongoing investigation into sexual abuse by Serco guards. A statement issued by some of the hunger strikers challenges the legality of “mass deportations”, noting that the women “have not had access to legal aid”, and that there is a “huge waiting list” for lawyers, “due to [a] mass round up” of Pakistani asylum-seekers in preparation for a chartered deportation flight to Pakistan tomorrow, 1 October. Corporate Watch has already conducted extensive legal research into ‘charter flights’, which corroborates many of these women’s claims.

The women’s defiant resistance must be particularly sensitive for the Home Office, because the coalition government had so far got away largely unchallenged with their aggressive increase in deportations to Pakistan which began in November 2011 – it is only now that people’s pain is being heard (read Amina’s story, for example). Pakistani asylum-seekers have become the number one target for the UK Border Agency’s (UKBA) secretive charter flights. Since February 2012, the UKBA has hired monthly night-time flights to Pakistan, removing between 50 and 85 people per private plane. It is standard practice for two or three times that number of private security guards to escort the deportees.

This article examines the collusion between the British and Pakistani politicians, who agreed these deportations whilst bargaining over trade, aid and security.

“Unbreakable partnership”

An ominous precursor to this deportation programme can be found in US diplomatic cables, leaked via WikiLeaks. Less than six months before New Labour lost the 2010 general election, the Conservatives’ then Shadow Defence Minister Liam Fox met the US Ambassador to Britain. The pair discussed foreign policy towards the Indian sub-continent: “Turning to India, Fox criticised the Labour government for policies which reinforce the Indian government’s long-held view that HMG’s [Her Majesty’s Government’s] foreign relations on the subcontinent are ‘skewed to Pakistan.’ Fox predicted this would not be a factor under a Conservative government, since the Conservatives are ‘less dependent’ than the Labour Party on votes from the British-Pakistani community.” Clearly then, deporting members of that community would not pose a big problem electorally.

Once in office, Home Secretary Theresa May travelled to Pakistan on 24 October 2010. She met Pakistan’s President Zardari and Prime Minister Gillani to discuss “a wide range of issues of mutual concern”. These diplomatic discussions continued with then immigration minister Damian Green and cabinet minister Baroness Sayeeda Warsi visiting Pakistan between 19 and 23 February 2011. They met with Pakistan’s Interior Minister Rehman Malik, who “stated his support for the return of illegal migrants by the UK.”[1]

Prime Minister David Cameron made his first official visit to Pakistan, flanked by Joint Intelligence Committee chiefs, on 5 April 2011 to launch an ‘Enhanced Strategic Dialogue’ involving annual meetings between the country’s leaders and bi-annual talks between foreign ministers. Cameron announced £650 million in “education aid” for Pakistan and set “a target of increasing bilateral trade in goods and services to £2.5 billion a year by 2015.”[2]

It was against this shift in diplomatic relations that the UK’s first deportation charter flight to Pakistan took place on 24 November 2011. The flight returned 23 men and two women. Theresa May arrived in Pakistan on the same day and held a press conference with the Pakistani interior minister Rehman Malik, in which she stressed that bilateral ties were “stronger than ever”.

The Tory’s attempt to close the door on migration from Pakistan has coincided with a push for more British investment in Pakistan’s economy, which the Foreign and Commonwealth Office called an “unbreakable partnership”. A press release from February 2012 said that the “UK Trade Minister Lord Green’s recent visit had highlighted the opportunities in retail, energy and mining sectors”.

Only last week, Home Secretary Theresa May visited Pakistan again to “advocate further co-operation between the UK and Pakistan in our efforts to tackle the shared threats posed by terrorism, narcotics trafficking and illegal migration” in her meeting with the new Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar. According to the Dawn newspaper, Theresa May “welcomed the commitment that Interior Minister Nisar and the government of Pakistan have shown to adopting a zero tolerance approach to illegal migration”. It would seem that Pakistan’s access to British aid and investment is partly conditional on accepting deportations from the UK, as well as co-operation on counter-terrorism initiatives.

To follow UK diplomacy in Pakistan, keep an eye on www.flickr.com/photos/ukinpakistan/sets/

References

[1] British High Commission in Islamabad, Press Release, 23 February 2011.

[2] Pakistani Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Press Release, 05 April 2011.

Shocking new photo of torture in Sri Lanka

Photo shows back of a Tamil man, photographed in London soon after he arrived here and just before he claimed asylum this year

Important article by Dr Frank Arnold’s published yesterday on Open Democracy, exposing UKBA’s cynical attitude to Tamil asylum-seekers, read it here.

Frank says UKBA case workers still use the notorious letter from the British High Commission in Colombo dated 11 May 2011.

That letter basically said Tamil refugees scar themselves to fake asylum claims.

If you want to know more about the sources in that letter, see here

NB: This ‘blame the victim’ argument that Sri Lanka uses has precedent with the UK government.

When Ted Heath was interning Irish Republicans in 1971, the Ministry of Defence told journalists that “the IRA was beating up its own volunteers so their injuries could be presented as evidence of army or police brutality”, despite the fact that British security forces were systematically torturing suspects [Ian Cobain, Cruel Britannia, p147].

New research is just uncovering how Ted Heath had a hand in repression in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) that same year…

Deportation Doctors: Armatus providing medics for mass deportation flights

Deportation Doctors: Armatus providing medics for mass deportation flights

The UK Border Agency has contracted a controversial security company to provide emergency medical staff on mass deportation flights, Phil Miller reveals in an exclusive investigation published by Corporate Watch today.

Armatus Medical Services, part of Armatus Risks Ltd, won the three to five-year contract in May 2011. Armatus Risks’ directors include an ex-bodyguard to notorious US General Patreaus, and four of the five directors listed on the company’s website boast experience as private military contractors.

Armatus staff in training. Source: Armatus Facebook page

Armatus staff in training. Source: Armatus Facebook page

‘Difficult to understand’

Armatus said its contract with the UKBA would see the company “develop into one of the UK’s largest providers of medical support staff to UK government operations.”

However, a recent report by HM Inspector of Prisons on controversial charter flights to Sri Lanka highlighted how Armatus medical staff signed off on a rough-and-ready practice in which private security guards handcuffed deportees to “prevent self-harm.”

According to media reports, eleventh-hour suicide attempts by refused Tamil asylum seekers were commonplace. The HMIP report cites one case where a detainee “had previously self-harmed, apparently to stop his removal, and had handcuffs on for 5.5 hours from Brook House [detention centre] to the Airport [Stansted].” “It was difficult to understand why the detainee needed to be restrained for so long given that he was under constant staff supervision,” it added.

The man was “examined by medics after the handcuffs had been removed, and the paperwork was completed appropriately.” The report confirms that healthcare staff on the flight were employed by Armatus. “They accompanied each coach and three were on the flight itself – one paramedic and two ambulance technicians.” According to Armatus, all its medics are recruited from the UK ambulance services and from personnel who have completed a training course known as ‘Armatus Risks community responder medical (FPOS-I)’.

The same inspection report criticised the private security guards for having “no accredited training on use of force in the confined space of an aircraft.” It has been two years since HMIP first noted that no such training existed.

The guards are currently supplied by security company Tascor (formerly Reliance), which took over the role of providing deportation escorts from G4S in May 2011, following the death of Jimmy Mubenga on board a BA flight during his forcible deportation to Angola in October 2010. Reliance was bought up by Capita in August 2012 and renamed Tascor.

Conflict of interest?

In July 2011, the UKBA announced that a company called Taylormade Secure Solutions was now the approved supplier of paramedics for escorted deportation operations. Taylormade was at the time a subsidiary of Armatus Risks Ltd, which was formerly known as Longmoor Risks Ltd. The latter took its name from a Royal Military Police base at Longmoor in Hampshire, where most of the company’s directors had taught before selling their military expertise to the highest bidder (see here and here, for example).

At the time, ex-Tory Northern Ireland Security Minister Sir John Wheeler was the non-executive chaiman of Longmoor, which had been bought by Westminster Group Plc. In its 2009 annual report, the group praised Wheeler for his “significant experience and extensive contacts within the security field, which have already been most valuable to us.”

Moreover, Wheeler was a director of Reliance between 1997 and 2000. Wheeler’s ‘extensive contacts within the security field’ may not have only contributed to Armatus getting this contract, they also mean medical care to already vulnerable people is now provided by security companies, where a different set of values and institutional culture dominate.

The managing director of Armatus Medical Services, Charlie Taylor, served in the British Army’s drone regiment and was “deployed to Iraq in early 2003 in an intelligence-gathering role,” according to his profile on the company’s website.

Another division of Armatus provides staff for anti-piracy operations and was promoting its work at a security industry summit in Sri Lanka last year. Sri Lanka is fast becoming a hub for private maritime security companies in the Indian Ocean. Most of Britain’s recent arms exports to the island have gone to anti-piracy outfits.

armatus-risks-logoMigrant rights groups have raised serious concerns about Armatus’ little-known contract with the UKBA. A spokesperson from Stop Deportation said: “Placing the healthcare of people being forcibly deported in the hands of mercenary companies like Armatus is not exactly the best way to respond to criticisms of the conduct of private security escorts. But perhaps that’s exactly what the UKBA intended from awarding this contract to this company.”

It is worth mentioning that Armatus is based in London (303 Princess House, 50 Eastcastle Street, W1W 8EA) and has recently opened a new regional office near Heathrow airport in order to “support UKBA operations.”