If you have contacts with retainees in a closed centre who risk being deported:
If you have contact with a detainee in a detention centre who is threatened with deportation, and if this person has received a “ticket” for an attempted deportation or has received information about a future attempt from the social worker or their coach.
Try to find out:
– If this is the first time he/she has been taken to the airport. If it is the first time, he/she should not worry. In general (with some exceptions, see below), they will be taken to the airport but may verbally refuse deportation and will be taken back to the centre;
– What they were told and/or what is written on the ticket. Often the time of departure of the flight and the destination are indicated. This information can be used to find the flight number on the Brussels Airport website (www.brusselsairport.be);
– If it is noted “with escort” on the ticket or if the social worker has notified the person that there will be an escort (see below).
– If the person wants to oppose the eviction and asks for help.
Legally, on the first attempt at deportation, detainees are taken to the airport and have the right to refuse to leave. In practice, the police insist and try to convince them by threatening them with violence at the next attempt. If they refuse, they will be taken back to a centre, sometimes a different one. There were very rare exceptions to this rule where, from the first attempt at expulsion, the escort was present without being notified. As a general rule (with some exceptions), on the second – and sometimes third – deportation attempt, they are belted, handcuffed at the airport police station and carried to the back of the plane with the escort (consisting of 2-6 plainclothes police officers), before the passengers arrive on the plane.
It is important to find out if the person wishes a mobilisation at the airport to warn passengers of their presence on the plane. If so, it is also important to explain to the person that they can make noise to alert the passengers.
1) BEFORE THE DEPORTATION
If a deportation – individual or collective – is announced, and if the people concerned agree, issue an alert to your contacts and the press, briefly presenting the case of the person (or group of people) facing deportation, giving the flight details and inviting people to protest to the authorities and the airline (calls/emails/messages via Facebook and Twitter, etc).
Also invite people to go to the airport, by giving an appointment at least two hours before the departure time at the flight check-in to explain the situation to the passengers. (This last action will not be possible in the case of a collective expulsion from a military airport).
2) ON THE DAY OF THE EVICTION
Meet at the airport to raise awareness among the passengers who will be boarding the same flight and who often do not know what an eviction is. If you explain to them that a person will be taken on board against their will and that they will be subjected to violence, passengers may decide to intervene once on board to prevent the deportation. You can also give a telephone number to the passengers who are aware of the situation to get news of the events on the plane.
3) ON THE PLANE
The person being deported may try to resist and draw the attention of other passengers. The person is placed before the arrival of the passengers at the back of the plane, belted and handcuffed, surrounded by plainclothes police officers. Sometimes the person is hidden behind a curtain and/or gagged. Everything is done to make the deportation invisible. If the attempt fails, the person is sometimes kept at the airport and put on another flight.
Passengers may refuse to sit down and buckle up until the person who is to be forcibly repatriated has been disembarked. As long as a passenger refuses to sit down, the aircraft cannot take off. Passengers can also address the pilot of the aircraft directly. The pilot is the master on board, he is the one who takes all the decisions in his aircraft: he can take the decision not to take off and to let down the person who should be expelled. He can also take the decision to ask for police reinforcement inside the plane. In the event of police intervention, it is rare that the passengers who tried to prevent the deportation are also disembarked and may be charged with “malicious interference with air traffic”. Sometimes they are placed on a ‘blacklist’ by the airline.
Whether or not the deportation takes place, try to collect testimonies from the person concerned as well as from passengers to whom you have given your telephone number in order to denounce these shameful practices.
In general, it is important to raise awareness of the issue of airline involvement in deportations and to target these companies with actions and campaigns.
Migrants and refugees resist daily against being deported. EVERY
passenger, EVERY flight assistant, EVERY pilot can show solidarity and
help to stop a deportation.