[ 12. Jul 2007 ]

Air France KLM employees demand to stop deportations

stop deportation!

On 5 July, 2007, representatives of the central trade union committee (comité d'entreprise, CCE) of Air France passed a motion demanding from Air France KLM Group shareholders to "stop the use of aircraft of the Group Air France KLM for the deportation of foreigners".


Representatives from the employers' trade unions CFDT, CGT, FO and CGC specify in the motion, which was passed a few days before the shareholders meeting on 12 July 2007 in Paris, that deportations damage the image of the company and endanger flight safety.

Philippe Decrulle, CFDT representative in the CCE, declared that with the motion employees want to warn shareholders that the bad reputation that Air France is gaining especially in Africa is bad for business: "It is increasingly evident that the employees are fed up [with deportations]", he said. "[Shareholders] have to be aware that the deportations can damage the image of the trademark Air France. They will most probably lose money. We are defending our means of work. We believe the deportations should be stopped and a memorandum should be passed immediately", Decrulle said.

The move comes after a series of violent deportation incidents on Air France flights. In May this year, a flight from Paris to Bamako (Mali) was cancelled as passengers intervened in a deportation, one of many incidents of the past few years where forceful deportations are upsetting staff and passengers who help the deportee resisting. Filmmaker Laurent Cantet was on board the aircraft with his film crew when the deportation of a 50-year-old Malian citizen escalated: Laurent Cantet reported that he initially thought a fight had broken out between passengers, when two plain clothed officers identified themselves as police after starting to restrain the victim by sitting on him. One officer hit him in the stomach, the other seemed to strangle him as his screams subsided into and he lost consciousness.

Passengers, many of whom were black, started getting very upset, one started filming the scene with his mobile phone, upon which an officer threatened to arrest him and started taking photos of passengers standing nearby. Police then took the deportee off the plane, leaving behind a stewardess and several passengers in tears. Police then tried to find the film material that was made on board, and started blaming another passenger, Michel Dubois, of having initiated the conflict. In an extraordinary move by police, Dubois was arrested, upon which passengers protested and refused to sit down. Police then attempted to strike a deal: saying that they would allow Dubois on board again, if they would accept the deportation to go ahead. The flight was finally cancelled by the pilot, the 50-year old Malian citizen was charged and convicted with refusal to cooperate with his deportation and resisting police officers, Dubois was released, and the group "Education without borders", which defends undocumented parents of school children, announced the creation of a solidarity committee supporting victims of criminalisation.

When asked by the French newspaper /Libération/ (11.7.2007) how the decision for the motion came about, Decrulle revealed that the intensification of deportations and restrictive immigration policy under Nicolas Sarkozy as interior minister has led to daily deportations on Air France KLM flights to Bamako. This, together with ongoing campaigns of anti-deportation groups and the network "Education without Borders" has mobilised passengers and the workforce to resist the development:

"There is a real, increasing consciousness amongst passengers who can no longer endure flying in a sort of deportation cell with shackled deportees, sometimes drugged like zombies. The personnel no longer accept working in a climate of violence and tension. And the network "education without borders" which is mobilising against deputations for some years now, has contributed a lot to raising consciousness."

When asked about the staff's relationship to law enforcement during deportation, Decrulle said that relationships are not per se bad, however,

"The uniformed CRS [special forces] boarding the aircraft are often aggressive. It becomes very tense when the person deported starts panicking, screaming and resists because he is shackled on hand and feet. Moreover, I don't know how one should take care of these people in case of an emergency, when we have only 90 seconds to evacuate 200-300 passengers."

Sources: Liberation, 28.5.07, 11.7.07, summarised in an article for Statewatch