In recent years British Airways has gained a reputation for union busting in its continuing dispute with cabin crew. However, its image has been further tarnished for allowing forcible deportation on its commercial flights, most notably when, on 12th October 2010, Jimmy Mubenga was killed by three security guards from G4S while being deported on British Airways flight 77 from Heathrow to Luanda in Angola.
Since the death of Jimmy Mubenga it has emerged that G4S repeatedly ignored warnings from staff that potentially lethal force was being used against deportees. They said executives were warned about one technique nicknamed "carpet karaoke'', which involved bending deportees over in aircraft seats to silence them. Frustrated that their complaints were not being listened to, some G4S guards took to writing to police, a local MP and the Home Office warning of the dangers of positional asphyxia from the use of “carpet karaoke”. It also emerged that G4S financially penalised guards who were unable to restrain deportees, leading to pilots refusing to allow the detainees to travel.
The government has since awarded the contract to transport deportees to another company and G4S may still face charges of corporate manslaughter. But G4S, the second biggest private employer in the world, despite its appalling behaviour, is still contracted by the government to run four prisons, three immigration removal centres and 675 court and prison cells, a contract worth over £600m.
For British Airways’ part, they have repeatedly claimed that they have no choice under the 1971 Immigration Act but to carry deportees on their planes. But this is nonsense. Air Italy and XL airlines both withdrew from UKBA deportations after being the target of public campaigns. A home office spokesperson also confirmed to the Independent newspaper that they only contracted airlines willing to operate removal flights.
The “world’s favourite airline” is lying in order to cover up the real reason – the massive profits to be made from carrying deportees. Last year the government spent over £28m on flights carrying failed asylum seekers and “illegal” immigrants. The truth is that British Airways is eager to make profits from human misery – it just doesn’t want people to know about it.
International Secretary of the SF-IWA