Tuesday 18 November 2008

Plans For Joint Afghan Deportation Flight Ends in Diplomatic Row

Things have moved on since our last post in the attempts by the UK and French governments to carry out a joint deportation of Afghans back to Kabul under the 2003 Dublin Regulations. Despite widespread secrecy about the flight, details began to leak and a campaign of opposition to the flight began on both sides of the channel including pickets of the Coquelles detention centre where the French detainees were being held and of the French Tourist Board in London.

Flight PVT008 itself, the "London-Lille-Baku-Kabul" charter operated by Hamburg Airlines, was due to fly from Stansted today Tuesday 18th at 7pm with about 30 UK-held Afghans on board. At Lille it was planned to pick up the 62 French-held Afghans and from there to Azerbaijan, before flying on to the Afghan capital Kabul where the deportees will be released.

However, a press release from the wonderfully 1984-sounding French 'Ministry of Immigration, Intégration, National Identity and Solidarity Development' yesterday announced that Nicolas Sarkozy's government had cancelled a flight at the 11th hour, referring to 'a legal difficulty related to the flight'. This 'legal difficulty' turned out to be the fact that not only did the flight violate article 4 of the European Declaration on Human Rights, which forbids the "collective expulsion of foreigners", but that 11 of the Coquelles Afghans made an emergency appeal to the European Court of Human Rights on the afternoon of the 17th November asking it to prevent the deportation as the "present situation appears to present too elevated a risk of inhuman and degrading treatment" should they be returned. This request was facilitated by 2 of the French migrant support groups, Cimade (Comité Inter-Mouvements Auprès des Evacués) and Gisti (Groupe d'Information et de Soutien des Immigrés), that had been active in the campaign against the flight.

As the situation now stands, the joint British-French project that started with the Dublin accord and the closure of Sangatte, and that was due to be ratcheted up to a new level, lies in ruins amidst a diplomatic row. This can only be a good thing for the migrants left in France along the Channel coast trying to survive the coming winter whilst being hunted by the state and having anyone who dares to offer them support persecuted under the assisting 'illegal immigrants' legislation.

For further information see: the Statewatch and Telegraph stories

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