“We believe in ending all deportations”: our birthday message to British Airways

In the run-up to British Airways (BA)’s 100th birthday this August, the airline ran an advertising campaign centred around 100 “love-letters” to Britain from staff, celebrities, and the public. In response, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants), a direct action group which works to resist borders and deportations, sent BA 100 letters from migrants, former and current BA staff, BA customers, politicians, artists, anti-racist organisations and activists, all asking BA to end its contracts with the Home Office and to help stop deportations. Drag queen Helvetica Bold went to BA’s headquarters in London in an attempt to deliver the letters by hand. We put an ad hack on the London Underground, planted a Tinderbot in airports, disrupted an Airlines UK industry dinner and invited ourselves onstage to join BA’s CEO at the launch of BA’s centenary exhibition in London’s Saatchi Gallery, all to encourage BA to stop deporting people on behalf of the British government. As the Institute of Race Relations puts in its letter, BA “remained unmoved”. Deportations are brutal and dehumanising. The Home Office holds contracts with commercial airlines such as BA in order to deport people to countries they may have never lived in, where they may be at risk of violence and death, without notice and without access to legal representation. Families and loved ones are separated; lives are destroyed. According to The Guardian, individuals being deported are routinely put in shackles and restraints for hours on end and prevented even from going to the toilet in private. In 2010, Jimmy Mubenga was “unlawfully killed” as he was being restrained by three G4S guards on a BA flight that was to deport him to Angola. BA has yet to investigate Mubenga’s death.

Saskia Papadakis in “We believe in ending all deportations”: our birthday message to British Airways (Gal-dem)