PRESS RELEASE – Home Office unlawfully attempts to deport asylum seekers from Sierra Leone and Eritrea to Ghana and Nigeria on mass charter flight deportation

Boarding detainees
The Unity Centre has received notice that at 22.30hrs on 26 January 2016, 
private charter jet company Titan Airways is scheduled to illegally 
deport asylum seekers from Sierra Leone and Eritrea to Ghana, Nigeria, 
Cameroon and the Democratic Republic of Congo, leaving them stranded in 
foreign countries simply because authorities in Nigeria and Ghana are 
paid per travel document they issue.

At least two of these detainees, and maybe more, will be stuck in 
countries foreign to them with no legal rights, no identification, no 
access to services, no means of travel or movement and no right to work, 
countries with which they have no connection. It is against the law to 
remove asylum seekers to third-party countries. The Home Office appears 
to be paying in advance for monthly charter flights to Nigeria, Ghana 
and Pakistan, and then trying to make the expense worth it by filling 
the planes, even if they have to break the law to do it by sending 
people to third-party countries.

We are in contact with two individuals in particular set to be deported 
tomorrow via this cargo-style method. Their examples below illustrate 
the unlawful nature of a number of these removals. Many detainees on the 
flight tomorrow will be there because they cannot afford to pay for 
lawyers and have cases that do not fall under legal aid. Even for those 
with access to legal aid, it can be difficult to secure legal 
representation from detention.

From speaking with a number of detainees set to be deported via charter 
tomorrow it has become clear that similar barriers to accessing justice 
as those previously on Fast Track exist. For many this is a result of 
lacking access to legal representation/legal aid to argue their 
established private and families lives (Article 8). Because Judicial 
Reviews no longer mean the suspension of a pending removal, even where 
errors of law have been made by the Home Office there is no means to 
seek rectification. It is clear the Home Office is deliberately using 
its power to change laws to limit those that most need legal protection.

Titan Airways will be operating the flight out of London Stansted. The 
Unity Centre supports all actions to contact and complain to both Titan 
Airways and Stansted airport.

Personal Stories of how two Detainees came to be scheduled for illegal 
deportation on this flight
One man on this expensive, secretive charter flight will be an asylum 
seeker from Sierra Leone who fled during the war. This man had never had 
his nationality questioned or disputed by the Home Office until two 
weeks ago. All documentation the Home Office gave him has had his 
nationality as Sierra Leone, even his ARC card. Since 2007, the Home 
Office have been pursuing Sierra Leonne authorities who have conducted 
numerous interviews with him but have not recognised him as from Sierra 
Leonne. During latest period of detention he met again with Sierra 
Leonne authorities. Then, out of the blue, just over ten days ago, the 
Home Office made an appointment for him to meet with Ghana High 
Commission, possibly because they were already visiting his detention 
centre to meet with others leading up to the charter flight.

He met with them because he had been threatened that if he did not, the 
Home Office would say he was refusing to comply with the law. The Ghana 
High Commission representative started speaking to him in a local 
Ghanaian language. He said he didn't understand what the representative 
was saying so the representative spoke in English. The detainee said 'I 
don't know anything about your country' and the response was, 'Well, if 
you dont know, you will see when you get there'.

This detainee has never been to Ghana; he knows nothing about the 
country and has no idea how it has been decided that he is from Ghana. 
He says 'What they [Home Office] are doing is against the law'. He 
believes that High Commissions in Ghana and Nigeria are paid 500 pounds 
per travel document they issue to a detainee.

Also on the flight will be Eritrean Miki Daskareen Ashiru, whom the Home 
Office is trying to deport to Nigeria.The Nigerian High Commission came 
to visit Miki last year in Morton Hall immigration detention centre. 
Their representative said that while his first two names are clearly not 
Nigerian, his surname Ashiru could potentially be Nigerian. On this 
basis and with no other evidence of having lived in or having any 
connection to Nigeria, the High Commission issued emergency travel 
documents. The representative accepted that she did not have any 
identification or record of Miki in Nigeria but said that his surname 
was enough evidence.

The Home Office have records of Miki’s history of torture. Most of his 
teeth have been pulled out; he has numerous bullet wounds on his right 
leg and scars on both ears. It is explicitly against Home Office policy 
to detain survivors of torture. Miki cannot legally be removed to 
Nigeria as he is not Nigerian. He has been in the UK for 22 years and 
his life is here.