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Friday, 11 February, 2000, 10:14 GMT
Should the hijackers be given asylum?

At least 60 of the passengers on board the hijacked Afghan plane are believed to have applied for asylum in Britain.

But if they are allowed to stay will it send out a signal to the rest of the world that the UK is soft on hijacking?

What should the government do? Should the law be strengthened to ensure that a hijacking can not be used as a way to obtain asylum? What do you think?

Your comments

The hijackers should be treated like every other criminal. But the hostages must be treated well and it's up to the British government to accept their asylum or somehow just let them stay in Britain. The reason I think they didn't go to other European country because Germany doesn't care anymore for refugees & France is the same. All other European countries don't care - your case will be sitting for years with no decision.
Lallu, Afghanistan

This is a small island and it's full.
R Butler, UK
No, if people hadn't noticed, this is a small island and it's full, we are already building on what green land is left. Let France take them, they have more room.
R Butler, UK

It was sad to see two hijackings within a couple of months and both related to Afghan soil. The best thing was that the Taleban tasted their own sweets! Now they are asking for a death penalty according to Shariah law, and have obviously forgotten the way they indirectly assisted the hijacking of an Indian plane. This has exposed the two faces of the same government. This event shows that Afghanistan still has some global face which the world should assist by giving them asylum in UK.
Maqbool, India

"This was simply desperate people resorting to desperate methods"
Jason, UK
There seems to be an amazing amount of naivety on the part of all those wanting to send the Afghans back home. For a start Britain is certainly not a soft touch for asylum seekers, unless being kept in prison for months if not years is seen as an easy option. Even if asylum seekers are not kept in prison or detention centres, life is not easy. We moan about the cost now, but didn't worry about spending millions to arm the various factions in Afghanistan when it suited us. While hi-jacking shouldn't be condoned, the circumstances in Afghanistan are so horrendous (I know I used to work there) that anyone trying to leave should be welcomed. The hostages were not badly treated, this was simply desperate people resorting to desperate methods. Would you send people back to a country where most women are not allowed to work, where girls schools have been closed, where men are imprisoned for not having a long enough beard, and where you can be imprisoned, tortured and killed for merely being from the wrong ethnic group? I wouldn't.
Jason, UK

The decision that is made by the government over the asylum of the hijackers will have strong repercussions and should not be rushed. In my opinion there are people who go through a long process to try to gain asylum and entry to the U.K. Next time they should just hijack or steal a plane and then land it in England. Don't bother with all that paperwork.
Nick Bradley, U.K (in U.S)

In a classical sense Afghanistan is hijacked by extremists and as such is not a 'country". Afghanistan is a failed state where international laws do not apply. The hijackers and even the "hostages" are likely to be beheaded. They should be given political asylum.
Charles Osuagwu, Kuwait

It is unfair to treat these people like terrorists when they, as their last resort, highjack a plane to flee from their oppressive government, starvation, and a constant struggle to stay alive. Anyone who does not want to be bothered with these reminders should move to another planet because on this planet, these struggles are the norm for millions of less fortunate people. If anyone is really concerned with the future of their country, they should be less concerned with its financial status and more concerned with its moral status.
Hasina Malikyar,

I notice a lot of these " they should be allowed to stay" comments come from people not living in this country. It is very easy to pass judgement when it does not affect your lives. I am all for anyone coming to live here for genuine reasons, as long as they are prepared to pay their own way and not expect to live at yet even more cost to our taxpayers.I agree with the comments that they should have to pay into the welfare system before they can take from it. They used that system in Germany and it worked for them. It will only deter the people who wish to come here because it's such an easy option. The refugees should all be sent home, even the highjackers. Why should we incur more expenses keeping them in prison?
Joanne Edwards, England.

"Small island", "too many refugees already", "can't afford"...These are phrases written by many that do not seem to be able to see the big picture. Afghanistan is one of the 10 least developed countries on our planet. We are in the top 20. Last year, just under 5000 Afghans applied for refugee status; 12 received it. We CAN afford to take these people in. We are happy for the free flow of cheap goods from places like Afghanistan; cheap goods from cheap labour. BUT when that cheap labour wishes to move here, it appears unacceptable.
Paul Clark, UK

Absolutely not! Why give accommodation and 30/ week hand-outs to Afghans who boarded an Afghan 'internal' flight when homeless UK citizens get nothing?
Colin & James, UK

I think the hostages should be given political asylum because they left the country not for vacation but to save their lives and to feed their children. The only way to make a fair and honest decision is to reverse the situation and imagine living in a country where every second there is a possibility of being killed or tortured. Those of you who have children could imagine a parent's pain when a child cries for food and there is no food. Or when a child is crying for his parents and they are dead. It is easy to judge things from a place of comfort not from the broken heart of the innocent children or parents that can not even guarantee the welfare of their children. I wish I had time to tell you all the horrible stories of war and dangers that Afghans been through. I came here to California and just like an America citizen I pay taxes and I work. So don't worry about your tax payers money and accept the hostages political asylum. I am sure they will work in the UK and pay taxes and I am sure those 21 children that are hostages today will turn out to be the good and honest future citizen's of UK,just like the rest of you that are kind and nice. Just continue the good deeds and I am sure God will reward you one way or the other.
Zar, Afghanistan

The knee-jerk, fling-them-out-regardless approach is not the proper one. There is only one criterion: whether the persons concerned have reason to fear death or torture if they are forced out of the country. The matter of their having committed a crime, even a serious crime, is totally unrelated: for that there are courts and prisons.
Peter, Netherlands

Give everyone his/her rights to choose where to live! Afghan people may one day overcome their hardship but history will judge those countries and peoples who refused to help. Let's teach to our next generations that we are all one big open minded, open hearted family whether black or white, Muslim or Jewish!
Sayed, Herat-zad -i- Kabul-neshin, CANADA

If the hijackers intended to seek asylum all along, then that is one more reason to let them stay. One has got to be pretty desperate to risk one's life and reputation to hijack a plane. The government can pass a law or make it a clear policy that no hijackers will be granted asylum in the future. But at least give these hijackers their first-mover advantage.
William Fang, USA

I don't think the hijackers are terrorist- nobody is killed or hurt. This was an attempt to seek mass asylum due to political reasons. I think that the UK government should treat this matter on a case by case basis. Don't forget that some of the people (some women and children) will be prosecuted in Afghanistan if they return back.
Navi, Canada

They should be given a fair trial like anybody else who has allegedly committed a crime. If there are extenuating circumstances which warrant asylum, then so be it.
Rod Butcher, Australia

The hijackers should NEVER be given asylum. The point is not of giving asylum to people trying to escape the harsh conditions in Afghanistan. The point is how they tried to achieve their goal - by HIJACKING, such a shameful, ghastly act.
If Britain today gives asylum then that will indirectly support and encourage all those TERRORISTS who think that by the use of the gun they can blackmail all the democratic countries, because they try to take advantages of the so-called soft laws and principles followed in the democratic countries.
It's HIGH TIME that all the democracies of the world rise up to the occasion, be firm and united and work jointly to drive out the menace of terrorism from the face of our beloved earth.
B. Dasgupta, India

Funds should be invested in creating asylum conditions in countries that are nearer to the refugee's country of origin.
KF Tchang, UK
The attraction of life in the rich West is irresistible for the populations of poor, developing countries. Asylum should be virtually abolished and the funds saved should be invested in creating asylum conditions in countries that are nearer to the refugee's country of origin. Nearer geographically, economically and culturally.
KF Tchang, UK

Just send the whole lot of them back and let the Taleban sort it out. It is not acceptable to hijack a plane putting countless people at risk, no matter what is at stake.
Martin, UK

Why on earth would we want to consider giving these people asylum? Put them all back on the plane and send them back home. If not we'll end up with hundreds of supposedly hijacked planes landing at our airports every week.
Dan, UK

Without being xenophobic, we already have too many applicants as it is.
Alex Banks, Wales
This is ridiculous. I sympathise strongly with the hostages, who have been through a very traumatic time. However, this is unacceptable. Without being xenophobic, we already have too many applicants as it is. As other people have said, you can't blame them, they get given (from their point of view) the earth!
I recognise the need for refugees to escape from violent regimes such as Rwanda and Chechnya, but this is filling the UK with even more refugees when the local authorities are already struggling to cope with processing and introducing into the community the existing applicants!
Alex Banks, Wales

No. They were passengers on an internal flight not escaping from anyone. They are just trying to take advantage.

There seem to be negative consequences resulting from either option. It may boil down to a simple question of space and resources. We can't take in the entire population of countries with strict regimes who wish to leave.
Helen Carthew, England

The UK, (read England) already sends out the message that we're soft on immigration. So maybe this would be the perfect time to say "No" to illegal immigrants. Would the Americans have even let the plane into their airspace, let alone let them live there and sponge off their taxes?
Chris M, England

We should give asylum to anyone who asks.
Mike Holmes, Scotland
We should give asylum to anyone who asks. However nobody should be entitled to any benefits from the British taxpayer until they've contributed into the system for 3 years. Anyone who can come here and work to pay their own way should be welcomed as they'll benefit us all.
Mike Holmes, Scotland

As we now know that the so-called hijacking was not really one at all, then all those involved should be sent back ASAP.
Mark Verth, UK

Why don't we ask if any Muslim country neighbouring Afghanistan is willing to take these people. And if they don't want to go to a country that is far closer in terms of religion and lifestyle to their own then it would be clear that they are economic refugees not people in fear of persecution.
Jez, UK

Was this a hijacking, or was it 'Taking and Driving Away'. No one was killed or hurt. There is a difference, I would guess that the male and female points of view are a lot different with reference to 'escaping from the Taleban'. FREE MOVEMENT OF GOODS AND PEOPLE THE WORLD OVER, the rest is just fascism and dictatorship.
Anon, Switerland

Life isn't easy for any of us and in the UK we need to take a harder line against these people who want an easy way out.
Sandra, UK
I think that the UK government is seen as a soft target for political asylum seekers and refugees. Our economic system is having enough problems supporting the NHS, education and the homeless and I think that charity should begin at home.
People in other countries have to take responsibility for their own futures. Many countries have gone through the struggles to democracy and have learnt from the pain of that evolution. These other countries should too. Life isn't easy for any of us and in the UK we need to take a harder line against these people who want an easy way out, a free lunch and place an increasing burden on our social systems.
Sandra, UK

If an innocent person's life was truly at risk then obviously they should not be sent back to danger. However plainly this is not the case here. If these hostages are simply criminals who stole a plane to get to Britain then they should be sent back, we don't want them here and this would send a message that Britain is not a soft touch for bogus asylum seekers.
Unfortunately we cannot trust this Government to do the right thing, for example offering asylum seekers an amnesty is utterly inept and is guaranteed to make the situation worse, as well as raising questions about the competence, intelligence and allegiance of those making such decisions.
John, England

Why not give shelter to those unfortunates who were on the plane, and have now found themselves here.
Ste Hick, United Kingdom
I don't think that the ranting xenophobes here realise that we like every country on the planet have a legal obligation to take in genuine refugees. You hear so much rubbish about the sponsorship required in countries such as Australia, but this is for immigration rather than asylum.
Of course we should send back any of those found to be involved in the hijack but why not give shelter to those unfortunates who were on the plane, and have now found themselves here. I live in the East End of London which has always had a high immigrant population, and the ranting bigoted xenophobia I hear on the TV and radio sickens me. I am not a Christian (atheist) but to those of you who are can you really justify your actions to the quite clear teachings of Christ (if you believe them).
Ste Hick, United Kingdom

This may establish a dangerous precedent. They should all be deported, perhaps to another Muslim country, without delay. In future hijackers should be automatically deported within 48 hours.
Mr D Cunningham, UK

When I think of Afghanistan and the Taleban I do not blame anyone for hijacking a plane to get to a relatively free country, compared to Afghanistan.
In fact, to frustrate these Talebans, I would give them asylum to give them the message that I personally abhor their rule. However considering UK itself, I would not want to disadvantage it and I would be firm about hijacking but give the Taleban a message as well.
Sujata, Currently India, residence USA

Afghanistan has been thrown around in international politics, especially during the cold war, but stealing a plane full of people is not the way to go.
Vishal Vashisht, UK
They should not be given asylum. If they are so against the Taleban, which I can admit is reasonable thinking, they should have supported the last government in their fight against the Taleban. These people probably supported the idea of a Muslim law in Afghanistan at the time when the Taleban moved in. Granted Afghanistan has been thrown around in international politics, especially during the cold war, but stealing a plane full of people is not the way to go.
Vishal Vashisht, UK

I think these people deserve some compassion. To live under the harsh regime of the Taliban is worse than hell. They should be given asylum and not returned to Afghanistan where they could face torture, hunger, and humiliation. The British must show some tolerance and compassion.
Sayed Shah, Canada

Let the Americans have them. They were the ones supporting the Afghan regime that lead to this. Why should we have to spend tax payers money on people who manufactured their own hijacking, no wonder there were no political demands. This was a well planned con.
Gretl Coudrille, UK

The bigots who want these people to go home are the same who say how great and how proud of our country we should be. So considering that, ask yourselves why they came here?
Luke, GB

The hostages' applications should be treated on the merits and on a case by case basis.
Beatrice Hamza, USA
There are rules and procedures for granting asylum. The hostages' applications should be treated on the merits and on a case by case basis. If they scale the threshold, they should be granted asylum.
Beatrice Hamza, USA.

I think we should put them on a flight straight away, if we let them stay in this country then we are opening up a big gap for everybody to get away with it.
Lisa, United Kingdom

Tony Blair says that he does not want to give any signals out to encourage repeat "hi-jackings". The only option would seem to comply with the Afghan government's request and send them all back.
The plane could be cleaned, re-fuelled and after all the passengers put on it, sent back to the country of embarkation. Britain cannot afford to be seen as a "soft touch" as it is at this time, by all dis-enchanted citizens of countries with oppressive regimes.
Richard Marlow, England

Hijackers and those who collude with them should be immediately be sent home, after serving prison sentences where deemed appropriate.
Their actions are illegal, and they have put many innocent people's lives at risk not to mention the psychological trauma experienced by the innocent passengers on this plane. And of course, how much has this escapade cost the poor, put-upon British taxpayer...
Janet, UK

Anyone who was a 'genuine hostage' should be returned, as they did not intend to leave their country, so were not fleeing from persecution.
Diane, UK
No way. Anyone who got on that plane, knowing that it was going to be hijacked, participated in a crime, and should not be allowed to benefit from an illegal act. Anyone who was a 'genuine hostage' should be returned, as they did not intend to leave their country, so were not fleeing from persecution.
Diane, UK

Those involved in the conspiracy to hijack the plane and then claim asylum should be deported immediately. If they are allowed to get away with it how many more hijacked planes will be on their way to Stansted? This country needs to send a message to the rest of the world that this kind of behaviour is not acceptable.
Stuart, UK

I think political asylum should be granted to every body who was on the plane including the hijackers.
My reasons:
1. These people are not criminals they are struggling for their lives.
2. The hijackers risked their lives to save other 150 people.
3. These people just need a place to live safely with their kids.
4. Their demands which is so small should be granted on humanitarian basis.
5. The law can be strengthened for the future not for this case (because when the government changes the law it can not be retro-active).
Hessary, Canada

If India can grant refuge to the Tibetan Karmapa, why can't the UK grant asylum to Afghan refugees fleeing their country? Instead of Afghans, if it were a bunch of people from Kosovo who had asked for asylum, would the UK have reacted the same way? Do I detect a whiff of racism here?
S Rajesh, India

This so-called hijacking is obviously an attempt at asylum seeking, otherwise why fly over umpteen countries (many of them Muslim) to get here?
Dave Allen, England
This so-called hijacking is obviously an attempt at asylum seeking, otherwise why fly over umpteen countries (many of them Muslim) to get here? Because, as the rest of the third-world population knows, in Britain you only need turn up to get free housing, free food, free money and free citizenship. Why do we keep letting more and more people into this country when our own culture is already dying out? If the government put the issue out to referendum, they would all be sent back tomorrow.
Dave Allen, England

Given the Taleban's position on women, frankly, if someone wants to leave I think they should be given asylum here. Since the Afghan government is so strict on forbidding its citizens to leave, how else are they supposed to get here?
Kate, UK

Personally, I think that we should welcome anyone who has the temerity to steal an aircraft of the Taleban. I know I wouldn't dare. So what if it costs? We can just lower the subsidy that the farmers get.
Simon Carmouche, UK

Absolutely not - if the UK is going to go in that direction in granting every tom, dick and harry asylum, the Haider's and Le Pen's of England will surface.
Claire, NYC

The Afghans are fleeing a problem not of their own making.
Grainne Phillips, Ireland
I would not like to live in Afghanistan with the Taleban in power and all the fundamentalist restrictions they have imposed on the most mundane aspects of everyday life. Neither, I suspect, would Jack Straw. But like many of the other countries around the world whose citizens are claiming refuge in the west, the Afghans are fleeing a problem not of their own making. The West created this problem many decades ago, and it should now be their responsibility to deal with the consequences in as humane and caring matter as possible.
Grainne Phillips, Ireland

If these people get asylum then it will leave the doors open for this type of thing to happen over and over again. The passengers should be checked to ensure there are ok and then flown back to there originating country. It appears that over the last few years Britain has become a 'soft' spot for immigrants the number of people getting asylum is growing very fast.
Steve, UK

Off course! We give it to everyone else that asks.
Mark Strain, UK

This situation is a symptom of our times. In some ways it was waiting to happen. If western governments continue to meddle in other nations affairs then this sort of thing will occur more and more. The world is watching.
Doug, UK

If you agree to political asylum for these hostages then you will open the floodgates for more terrorist activity. A crime has been committed and should be punished.
Chris Pritchard, England

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