Refugee Activists Disrupt Global Aviation Conference to Protest Deportation Flights

Refugee activists strom the stage at an aviation conference to protest Rwanda deportations.
Photo Credit: Freedom From Torture

LONDON – Refugee activists stormed the stage at an international aviation festival conference this week in Amsterdam, Netherlands. The group were protesting the industry’s collaboration with European governments in the deportation of refugees.

The pair who took to the stage – representing the UK-based charity Freedom from Torture (FFT) – called out the Spanish airline Privilege Style for collaborating with the UK government in their controversial plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda. 

Sepideh, a torture survivor from Iran who is part of FFT’s Survivors Speak OUT network, accused the airline of “profiting from the pain of refugees” and called on the airline industry to “stand up against cruelty.” 

Photo Credits: Freedom From Torture

UK Home Secretary’s ‘dream’ of deportations

Referring to comments made yesterday by UK Home Secretary Suella Braverman that her “dream” was to see asylum seekers flown to Rwanda by Christmas, Kolbassia Haoussou MBE, director of Survivor Empowerment at FFT and himself a torture survivor, was heard to shout: “People need protection. People need love, compassion…”, calling on the airline industry to “do something.”

Commenting on the stunt, Kolbassia said: “By collaborating in the UK government’s cruel plan to fly survivors of torture and trafficking on one-way tickets to Rwanda, Privilege Style is flying in the face of human decency.”

“This trade in human beings for cash should shame the entire industry. We are calling on Privilege Style to end their involvement in the UK-Rwanda plan and for all airlines to take a stand against these racist schemes.”

Photo Credits: Freedom From Torture

Privilege Style & the Rwanda deportation flights

Privilege Style is a private airline which operates charter flights on behalf of other airlines, tour operators, sports teams and other VIP customers.

According to the airline, its VIP customers include several Spanish companies and top Spanish football clubs, including Real Madrid and the Spanish national team.

The airline has become known as the UK government’s ‘airline of last resort’ for their willingness to conduct deportation flights that other airlines refuse.

In June, the airline’s first flight carrying refugees to Rwanda was grounded by a last-minute ruling from the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

Shortly before the ECHR decision, Kolbassia was ejected from Privilege Style’s Mallorca headquarters after confronting the airline over their involvement in the scheme. The airline also received over 10,000 emails from members of the public calling on them to cut ties with the UK government. 

Last month, a detailed clinical review by the charity Medical Justice has found that many asylum seekers threatened with removal to Rwanda may have been tortured or trafficked into the UK.

The charity was joined by the British Medical Association, Freedom from Torture, and other medical charities in calling on the Prime Minister to abandon the Rwanda policy and proposed Rwanda deportation flights.

AviationSource recently reported on the first failed Rwanda deportation flight undertaken by Privilege Style on behalf of the UK government, as well as the potential air safety implications of such flights.

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