Forced deportations: the role of commercial airlines

Concerned about the damaging effect deportations may have on cabin crew and passengers, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) recently called on all commercial airlines to stop assisting the government in its deportation procedures. In summer 2018, Virgin Atlantic announced it would stop accepting forced deportations. This decision has put mounting pressure on other national commercial airlines, including British Airways (BA), to follow Virgin’s lead (…) BA published a statement saying that under the Immigration Act 1971, the company is legally required to assist the Home Office in forced deportations: “Not fulfilling this obligation amounts to breaking the law. Airlines only have the right to refuse deportees on the basis that they feel there is a threat to the safety or security of the aircraft, its passengers or the individual,” the statement reads. “We are not given any personal information about the individual being deported, including their sexuality, or why they are being deported”, a BA spokesperson adds. “The process we follow is a full risk assessment, with the Home Office, which considers the safety of the individual, our customers and crew on the flight.” However, if airlines are legally obliged to assist the Home Office as BA has claimed, how has Virgin managed to terminate its collaboration without facing legal consequences? A Virgin Airlines spokesperson says: “We’ve made the decision to end all involuntary deportations on our network, and have informed the Home Office. We always comply with the law and would continue to comply with legislation; however, we have ended our contractual agreement to carry involuntary deportees.” The Home Office was also contacted for clarification, but didn’t respond. The LGSMigrants association seems to confirm Virgin’s position: “Even if the Immigration Act does compel airlines to deport migrants at the direction of Home Office, that is not what is happening at the moment. What is happening is that airlines are voluntarily entering a contract with the Home Office, and so BA and other airlines are currently not being compelled by law,” says Björn. “If they ended their contract with the Home Office and then were compelled by law, they should fight that in the court and then the court would decide what the parameters of that piece of legislation (the Immigration Act 1971) are but at the moment, they are simply voluntarily entering the contract.”

Adele Berti in Forced deportations: the role of commercial airlines (AirportIndustrieReview)