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 Tuesday, 28 January, 2003, 16:55 GMT
Hijack fears hamper deportation
Asylum seekers
MPs heard it is hard to remove deportees from the UK
Fears of 11 September-style hijack attempts are prompting to airlines to fail to live up to their obligations to remove failed asylum seekers, MPs have heard.

A lot of them do it as a result of September 11, because of the perceptions their other paying passengers have about their safety

Tom Davies
Agreements thrashed out with the airline trade organisation the IATA should mean that the carriers help to take people out of the UK.

The boss of the company responsible for escorting deportees out, Tom Davies, said some airlines refused to carry any refused asylum seekers at all.

The Loss Prevention International Ltd's [LPI] chief executive told the House of Commons home affairs committee: "If they are not responsible for bringing that person into the country themselves, they don't want to know, even though the ticket's been paid for.

"A lot of them do it as a result of 11 September, because of the perceptions their other paying passengers have about their safety.

"If it were not for BA and the support we get from BA, the number of scheduled flight removals we get out of this country would be virtually nil."

Failure to hit target

Detainees sometimes avoided being allowed on board by attacking their escorts or even stripped naked only to be expelled from the aircraft before take-off.

The committee was also told that Labour's manifesto pledge to remove 30,000 failed applicants a year was set without consultation with the private company that was supposed to deliver the target.

Michael Payne, of Wackenhut UK, said his organisation was not even asked if the target was achievable.

He added that the intended removal level was nothing like the 30,000 envisaged by the government and current facilities did not lend themselves to such a high volume of traffic.

8,000 removed

Home Secretary David Blunkett dropped the target last year having admitted it was "unrealistic".

No new target has since been set.

The total number of removals and voluntary departures in the first nine months of 2002 was below 8,000.

That approximately equates with the monthly level for asylum applications.

Poor administration in the immigration service was to blame for many removals not going ahead, the committee heard.

One of the criticisms of the current system is that there was no single body responsible for overseeing the removals and sometimes more deportees were sent to catch flights than seats were available.

In some cases people either arrived with too much luggage for flights or without any of their possessions at all.

RAF role?

Another criticism was that the unit with responsibility for approving payments for tickets was not open outside office hours when most long-haul flights were due to depart.

Deportees were therefore turned away because payment for their tickets could not be authorised, Mr Payne said.

A proposal to carry out bulk deportations using RAF planes was later dismissed by Mr Davies as unworkable.

"The RAF don't have the aircraft and they don't have the pilots and it would be considerably more expensive than chartering planes," he said.


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25 Jan 03 | England
27 Jan 03 | Politics
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