An activist group plastered guerrilla ads across London’s Tube network on Tuesday calling on airline passengers to stop forced deportations with a simple three-step guide to taking direct action. The ads included the British Airways logo in an apparent dig at the Heathrow-based airline over its continuing policy of allowing forced deportations on its commercial flights.
The Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants) group hijacked around 200 ad spots on London Underground trains across the British capital’s metro system – although it’s believed the majority were quickly removed by transport officials. At first glance, the ads appear legitimate enough. In fact, they even mimic an anti-terror poster campaign from the British Transport Police which regularly appears on the Tube.
Quoted by Dazed magazine, Sam Björn from the activist group explained why they made the ads:
“Often when we are confronted with situations where we see vulnerable people falling victim to an abusive system we feel powerless to help,”
“We want to change that. We aim to build a movement to resist this brutal, racist practice of secretive deportations and the hostile environment as a whole. We hope to empower everyone to take a stand and refuse to sit in silence.”
The ads call on passengers to look out for potential deportations by asking questions at check-in and attempting to spot anyone surrounded by guards at the back of the plane. If they think someone is being deported, the ad asks us to speak with the deportee and demand to talk to the pilot. In an attempt to stop the deportation, passengers are then urged to stand up and refuse to sit down.
According to Dazed, members from LGSMigrants were amongst a number of activists were stormed the airfield at Stansted Airport in March 2017 in an attempt to stop a charter deportation flight. Some of those involved in the protest were recently convicted of endangering the safety of the airport.
The so-called ‘ad-hack’ comes just a couple of months after a leading transport workers union demanded commercial airlines stop allowing the forced deportation of failed asylum seekers and convicted criminals on commercial flights. In 2015, around 10,000 migrants were deported on commercial flights – a significant number of which were carried out without the deportee’s consent.
The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) said it was concerned about a rise in protest action and disruptive behaviour that stems from these forced deportations. In one case, Louise Graham, a former member of British Airways cabin crew says she was forced to resign after suffering trauma when a deportee was restrained by security staff. The veteran flight attendant said she was “left in pieces” after hearing Jimmy Mubenga’s “harrowing howls” before he collapsed and died.
The ITF claims that in at least 222 cases between January and October 2017, airline pilots were forced to stop a deportation from going ahead because of serious concerns they had about the safety and welfare of passengers and crew members.
Earlier this year, Virgin Atlantic announced it would no longer allow forced deportations to take place on its aircraft although British Airways says it has a legal obligation to help the UK authorities.
“It is a legal requirement (Immigration Act 1971) for all airlines to deport people when asked to do so by the Home Office. Not fulfilling this obligation amounts to breaking the law,” a spokesperson for the airline told us.
“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.”
Further explaining the process, the spokesperson continued: “We are not given any personal information about the individual being deported, including their sexuality, or why they are being deported. 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.”
Whether you agree with airlines allowing forced deportations or not, taking direct action seems to be a pretty sure fire way of getting kicked off your flight and banned from flying. You could even face criminal charges and an airline could even potentially take legal action to recover costs associated from a flight delay you caused.
Edited to include quote from British Airways.
Mateusz Maszczynski honed his skills as an international flight attendant at the most prominent airline in the Middle East and has been flying throughout the COVID-19 pandemic for a well-known European airline. Matt is passionate about the aviation industry and has become an expert in passenger experience and human-centric stories. Always keeping an ear close to the ground, Matt's industry insights, analysis and news coverage is frequently relied upon by some of the biggest names in journalism.