Reluctant airlines thwart deportations

29.Jan.03,  first published by The Guardian: read the original article here.

The refusal of most airlines to carry asylum seekers being removed from Britain is undermining attempts to increase deportations, MPs were told yesterday. The private security firm responsible for the escorted removal of attempted migrants told the Commons home affairs committee yesterday that if it was not for the efforts of British Airways the number of those deported on scheduled flights would be "virtually nil". Tom Davies, the chief executive of Loss Prevention International, said that since September 11, many airlines have refused point blank to carry deportees because of the perception paying passengers have about their safety. Wackenhut, a second private security company involved in the detention and removal of failed asylum seekers and immigrants, said that perhaps two or three times a week detainees tried to delay their departure by creating a scene at the gate of the aircraft by taking off their clothes. The difficulties faced in using commercial scheduled flights had led to many more special charters being used for mass deportations. Nontheless, the company told MPs that the overall situation was improving and the numbers leaving the country was going up. The government abandoned its target of 30,000 removals a year six months ago as unrealistic. The MPs were told that poor co-ordination within the immigration service was to blame for many removals failing to go ahead with overbooking of seats a common problem or detainees handed over to airlines without their personal belongings. The private security operators also complained about the short notice given to some of those facing deportation. Michael Payne of Wackenhut said he had one case last weekend of a man who had been in Britain for eight years and had a family, a house and a mortgage. He was detained on the Saturday morning and told he was being flown out on Sunday night and was expected to put all his affairs in order by then.