The deportation of a young Afghan man refused asylum by the Government has been dramatically stayed after the pilot of the plane he was supposed to be removed on refused to take off. Samim Bigzad’s friends and family feared their efforts to prevent him being forced back to Kabul had failed when he was detained and booked on commercial flight to Afghanistan via Istanbul. The 22-year-old’s cousin previously told The Independent he feared he would be killed in the city he fled two years ago after being threatened with beheading by the Taliban. More than 3,000 people had signed a petition appealing for the deportation to be delayed so Mr Bigzad’s asylum claim could be reviewed. Campaigners travelled to Heathrow Airport to talk to unwitting passengers due to be on the same Turkish Airlines flight, in the hope they would raise objections to crew members. Bridget Chapman, who organised the trip, said activists “very quietly” approached tourists at the check-in gate to explain their flight was being used to forcibly deport Mr Bigzad. “We asked people to do whatever they were comfortable with raising it with airline staff,” she told The Independent. “Airport security asked us to stop after a while, but by that point most people had boarded.” Another campaigner who travelled to Heathrow, who did not want to be named, said they hoped to alert the plane’s pilot to the deportation because of their power to refuse passengers. “Pilots have a duty of care towards their passengers, so if they feel there’s a passenger at risk or who will disrupt the flight, they are obliged to ensure they don’t fly on the plane,” he added. Ms Chapman, who is chair of the Kent Anti-Racism Network, said campaigners “genuinely thought they had failed” when the flight eventually took off 45 minutes late. But later that evening she received a message from a British woman who had been hosting Mr Bigzad in Margate saying he was back in a UK detention centre. Kavel Rafferty said she had given up all hope for the asylum seeker, who has been staying with her for four months, when she received a phone call from the Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick. “The last message I’d had from him was so sad – it just said ‘they’ve come to take me’ and then the phone was switched off,” she added. “But then he rang that night and told me ‘the pilot said no’. He was happy and relieved and shocked – it was a lot to go through in one day. “We don’t know the name of the pilot but there are so many people who would like to thank him.”

Lizzie Dearden in Samim Bigzad: UK Government’s attempt to deport Afghan asylum seeker fails after pilot refuses to take off (Independent)

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