Statewatch article: RefNo# 6832
Mass deportations by charter flight - enforcement and resistance
Statewatch Bulletin; vol 13 no 2 March-April 2003
For all the EU governments' hard line speeches on their clamp down on asylum, the one thing they have always failed to achieve is their deportation targets. Although the living conditions for asylum seekers in the EU have dramatically decreased over the past decade (detention, dispersal, no social services, racist attacks), their removal after failed applications has been slowed down by several factors. Contrary to common belief, these are not related to the EU government's international obligations under the ECHR.

Firstly, there is the refusal by countries of origin to take back their own and other nationals (this includes in particular the lack of identity documents and the unwillingness by refugees and migrants to disclose their nationality in fear of deportation, as well as stateless refugees); secondly, there is the resistance by refugees and migrants against their deportation as to them it is either death or economic destitution awaiting them (although in most cases deportations are not physically resisted); finally, there are the logistical and financial problems of forcefully deporting thousands of people: it is very expensive, not least due to the fact that for every forced deportation, the government has to pay wages and (return) flight costs for around four security personnel or police officers. Up to now, governments have used scheduled flights because they include landing rights (which are cheaper) and there have allegedly been deals between governments and airlines on taking deportees in return for the waving of carrier sanctions. To enforce the deportation of the target number (2,500 a month according to the 2002 UK White Paper on immigration, nationality and asylum) individually, the governments would have to pay millions. Another important aspect here is the refusal by most airline companies to carry out deportation flights, since anti-deportation campaigners have started focusing on aviation companies for carrying out deportations. Or as one private security firm responsible for escorting deportations told the UK Houses of Commons home affairs committee during an enquiry on deportations: if it was not for British Airways, the number of those deported on scheduled flights would be "virtually nil".

For these reasons, EU governments and think tanks have come up with the plan of chartered deportation flights. It is difficult to pinpoint precise origins, but chartered deportation flights have occurred at least since the 1980's, albeit not regularly. In 1992, when in Hungary 1,200 refugees were round-up, 740 of them were immediately deported on charter flights to Damascus and Hanoi amongst others. The French have used charter trains to Marseille where refugees are then deported by boat to North Africa, a plan which encountered much resistance in 1993, when then interior minister Charles Pasqua ordered the French state railway company SNCF to conduct a feasibility study. Since then however, trains have again been used for deportations to France's coast. More recently, charter deportations have been stepped up in the EU in a drive to enforce Member States' deportation targets, and they have started to occur in cooperation between EU member states, notably France, Germany, the Netherlands and Britain. The test case for chartered deportation flights was undoubtedly Kosovo. The UK government alone has deported over 4,000 people to Kosovo on charter flights over the past few years, and on 4 March this year, immigration minister Beverley Hughes confirmed at an inquiry into asylum and immigration removals that "Yes, we actually do a lot of charter flights...there have been weekly flights out to Kosovo..." And in fact, she "was very impressed" with the way the security firm dealt with the escort, so impressed she stayed "and watched the flight go".

But although most politicians view 'removals' purely in terms of a logistical problem, in reality, deportations are a serious human rights concern and resistance to the

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