Statewatch article: RefNo# 6946
EU: Mass deportations by charter flight - enforcement and resistance
Statewatch News Online, August 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

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 secur

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