Sunday, 16 December 2018

Stansted 15

Stansted 15

The Stansted 15 are a group of concerned citizens who peacefully stopped a deportation flight to Nigeria and Ghana at Stansted airport on 28 March 2017.
They have now been convicted. The Stansted 15 expected to face retribution for their protest. They never expected to be found guilty of terrorism offences. But the group became the first activists involved in a non-violent direct action protest to be convicted under laws that were formulated in response to the Lockerbie bombing.
The group had information of people meant to be on that flight, who would be put in extreme danger if they were forcibly returned. The group knew about their stories from the website Detained Voices. For example, a lesbian women feared persecution by the Nigerian authorities if returned to Nigeria, her abusive ex husband who she was made to marry had also told her he would kill her on return. Nigeria is one of the most dangerous places in the world for LGBT people. The Stansted 15 also knew that the Home Office was not respecting rule of law, some of the people scheduled to be on the plane had ongoing claims and had not exhausted the legal process. The Stansted 15 were deeply concerned about the treatment of detained people during the deportation process as well.
Write to the Crown Prosecution Service to protest –
Walthamstow resident and Stansted 15 protester Melanie Strickland on why she’ll keep fighting to help vulnerable deportees
I was convicted of an absurd terror-related charge this week, on International Human Rights Day. The Stansted 15 – as we are known – have been tried for “endangering safety at airports” following our peaceful action against a deportation plane set to fly to Ghana and Nigeria in March 2017.
This charge, and the way the prosecution made its case throughout, has been political and vindictive. We were subjected to a ten-week trial at what must have been vast public expense.
I am proud of what we did and what the groups involved – End Deportations, Plane Stupid, and Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants – have achieved. We helped to expose a massive government scandal.
We now know that the government has been deporting people en masse on a routine basis – many of these people had claims that had not been heard properly. In doing so, the Home Office has shown contempt for rule of law and due process.
Eleven of the 60 people scheduled to be on the plane we stopped remain in the country today. These people include trafficking survivors and people who have claimed asylum. At least one person has already secured leave to remain.
If I was put in a situation of extreme danger by my own government, as people on the plane we stopped were, I would want someone to intervene on my behalf. In March 2017 I was responding to a plea from someone I knew would be on the plane, whose story was posted on Detained Voices when they got the ticket for the deportation plane. They said: “I came to England for protection, I seek asylum here. I believe the UK could help me… Nobody hears our cry. We are crying. Please, we need to be rescued. Please can anybody helps us?”
From volunteering at Walthamstow Migrant Support Centre, I know about the misery experienced by people subject to immigration control. I found this person’s story compelling and totally credible.
The Home Office routinely breaks the law in refusing people’s claims without good reason, and in deporting them. They haven’t confirmed if the 49 people subsequently deported from our flight were of the Windrush generation, and they haven’t contacted those affected to tell them about the newly-established Windrush Taskforce.
If the government can totally disregard the law and get away with it, then none of us are safe – all our rights are under threat. The hostile environment is hostile to all of us. While these charter planes carrying deportees are still flying, we will keep up the campaign to end this brutal practice. It is now my mission to hold the government to account for its dark deeds.
I think about the people on the plane every day. Their words give me courage: “When something is wrong people have to stand up. The problem is with the Home Office. No-one checks on them, they have absolute power over peoples lives. They do whatever they want. People must stand up against injustice. We are very proud of the protesters. They did the right thing.”

– Charter flights (private, mass deportation flights chartered by the Home Office), like the plane stopped, are a particularly brutal, secretive and barely legal plank of the hostile environment policy as championed by Theresa May. People are racially targeted based on their perceived nationality, then ripped from their communities, friends and loved ones before they are forcibly deported. People are often deported before they can get access to a decent lawyer. Legal aid is available in limited cases and it’s very difficult to access even where it is available. People are seriously abused by guards involved in the deportation process. Being tranquillised, ‘dragged like a goat’ in a restraint belt, and racially abused, are all commonplace experiences. Charter flights take place in the middle of the night in a remote part of Stansted airport where the public cannot observe the dark deeds that are taking place. This offends common decency.
You can find a lot of information on the End Deportations website…

Facts:The Stansted 15 have been the targets of a political frame up. They have been charged with endangering safety at airports under terrorism-related legislation. They have ensured a 10 week trial so far. The Government is in fact guilty of the charge the State has levied against the Stansted 15 – the Government endangers people every day with their brutal, unfair hostile environment policies and particularly the barbaric practice of charter flights.
– Decent people must be united in their condemnation of charter flights and their solidarity with the Stansted 15. Peaceful dissent to defend our rights – and those of our migrant brothers and sisters – is noted never could be an act of terror. State terror must be identified, called out, and opposed.
– The action by the Stansted 15 has mean that 11 of the 60 people due to be deported that night are still in the UK with their friends and families. More details from the House of Commons website…

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