These Activists Blocked Migrant Deportations. Now They Face Life Imprisonment in the U.K.

Nathanson, Rebecca

Publisher:  The Intercept
Date Written:  17/11/2018
Year Published:  2018  
Resource Type:  Article
Cx Number:  CX23138

Fifteen activists who blocked a plane deporting migrants are being charged with laws intended for terrorists. The use of charter flights for deportations is one of the issues they raise.



Smoke is a founding member of Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, a group created in 2015 to stand in solidarity with migrant communities in the U.K., and also part of End Deportations, a group campaigning to end deportations that originally formed around the Stansted action. They chose to focus on one particular aspect of the U.K.'s deportation system: charter flights. While some migrants and asylum-seekers are deported on commercial flights alongside passengers traveling for business or pleasure, others are deported via private flights chartered by the Home Office, the government department responsible for immigration, security, and law and order. The Titan plane around which the Stansted 15 locked themselves in March 2017 was one of the latter.

The activists believed that at least three people scheduled to be on that particular charter flight, bound for Nigeria and Ghana, were at risk of serious harm or even death upon return to their countries of origin. Smoke had heard of one woman, an out lesbian, who had fled an abusive marriage in Nigeria and whose ex-husband had said he would kill her upon her return. The British government had rejected her asylum application. Standing in the witness box, his voice occasionally growing quiet until his lawyer would remind him to speak loudly and slowly, Smoke explained that he had acted with an intent not to do harm but to protect people from the harm that he thought would result from deportation on the charter flight.

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