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Thursday, 10 February, 2000, 17:45 GMT
Hotel luxury for hijack passengers

waving passengers All smiles: Passengers are driven to the hotel

The relieved passengers from the hijacked plane are recovering in conditions very different to those they endured for the past five days.

The group, which includes 21 children, has been taken to the four-star Hilton hotel, standing in three acres of landscaped grounds within the airport perimeter.

They have been offered all the hotel's normal facilities including satellite channels, 24-hour room service and "climate control".

The hotel's general manager Andrew Dorrington said his new guests were staying in a block away from the main building in rooms reserved by the police.

Officers from the Essex force are interviewing each passenger to glean as much eyewitness information from them as possible.

waving girl 21 children were on the flight
Mr Dorrington said that he was unsure exactly how many passengers the hotel would be accommodating or whether they would be staying overnight.

Duncan Howell, of Essex social services, said he and colleagues were making sure the hostages had food, drink and clean clothing.

He said: "Many of them are quite anxious and distressed. They have been through an upsetting couple of days.

"But they are in comfortable rooms now and have been able to have baths and food so they are a lot more comfortable and generally I think they have coped pretty well."

A policeman who saw the hostages inside the hotel said that they looked happy and relieved in their new surroundings.

"I passed a group of them as I walked along the corridor and they seemed to be smiling." he said.

"One of them tried to shake my hand and said something which I did not understand but I knew he meant well."

Asylum interviews

He said that the hostages were being offered food and a chance to wash and rest.

Reports from Stansted suggest police officers will need to continue interviewing the passengers on Friday.

It is unclear how many of the people on the plane wish to claim political asylum in the UK.

The Home Office has said that 60 have already expressed their intention to apply for asylum along with 14 of their dependents.

However according to the prime minister's official spokesman, a charter flight will be available to fly those who wish to go home back to Afghanistan.

The spokesman said the International Organisation for Immigration has arranged for a Kampuchean Airlines chartered Tristar jet to arrive from Bangkok at Stansted at around midnight.

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See also:
10 Feb 00 |  UK
Hijack hostages plead for asylum
10 Feb 00 |  UK
Asylum: What now for the hostages and hijackers?
10 Feb 00 |  UK
Hijack timetable
10 Feb 00 |  UK
Hijack ordeal over

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