On the 29.4.2004, the European council decided to organise group flights for deporting migrants and refugees who "are required to depart". The "rehearsal" for flights like this took place from 25 to the 26.5.04 in Hamburg-Fuhlsbüttel.
The ban on night flights was lifted, the airport turned into a prison and at around 2am eight refugees from four different states were flown to Amsterdam in a KLM plane to be deported to Togo and Cameroon along with 44 other refugees from five EU countries. Since then, there has been at least seven such group deportations to Africa, not only to Togo and Cameroon but also to Guinea, Ghana, Benin and Nigeria. Further charter flights took place from Düsseldorf (see overview at :: Flüchtlingsrat Hamburg)
In July 2005 at a meeting in Evian, the so-called G5 states (France, Germany, Italy, Spain and Great Britain) reaffirmed that they would plan deportations together in future. Shortly afterwards the airports in London and Paris were the setting for the joint deportation to Afghanistan. Further flights followed.
Saving costs and business
Such deportation flights are carried out with chartered aeroplanes from different airines e.g. Hamburg International (see box), Aero Flight (the company has since registered concourse), Hello (Swiss company), LTU, Westtours or the Austrian airlines Asylum Airlines founded especially for this purpose. They fly from country to country to round up detainees without valid residency permits, usually in late-night stings and with brutal violence. Or refugees are brought to the place of departure with loading planes, sometimes in small private jets. Around 140 000 euros is what a group deportation costs, and around 70 percent of this is reimbursed by the EU. "If I get the machine full, one deportee costs around 1000 Euros.
From 20 people and up, the cost per head sinks below the price of a scheduled deportation flight", explained a leading employee of the Hamburg Immigration Authorities to the magazine "Leben" in the newspaper :: "Zeit". But saving costs through a large number of deportees is not the main reason for carrying out group deportations. An example: In March 2008 the first charter deportation flight from Ireland took place - with only six refugees in the 110 seat machine. What is essential, is that a charter flight carrying only deportees is occupied with more than twice as many policemen, a doctor as well as employees of the involved immigration authorities and the European border protection agency Frontex, and so publicity is completely excluded and resistance is hardly possible.
Protests on charter flights with inhumane measures
In charter flights in recent years it often came to protests from passengers and some of them are on trial, for example in France. If passengers refuse to sit down then a flight cannot take off due to safety reasons. It is also possible for flight attendants to refuse to
carry out deportations. Air France had a one such a campaign with union workers in Summer 2007. The German pilot union, Cockpit, recommends its members to ask people affected by deportations whether they want to fly and if they answer "no" to refuse to transport them because otherwise, in case of death or injury from deportees, the pilot could be sued. Specialty deportation charter flights cannot expect such problems since the staff is specially chosen and mistreatment could occur unnoticed. Only afterwards, in reports from deportees, facts about the operation like medication used to "calm" them, being tied up, gagged, and hit and other illegal measures on board the charter machines were leaked to the public. The authorities justified this mistreatment by claiming that the deportees were "criminal offenders" and "violent". It's a fact that for authorities, "illegal" residency is a criminal act and cries of protest or resistance against being tied up or gagged are labelled as "violence" - but not what is done to the refugees.
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