Campaigners claim victory in bid to stop TUI cooperating in Home Office deportation flights

Both the Home Office and TUI have refused to comment, but campaigners say ‘back channel sources’ have confirmed the end of the arrangement

Campaigners are claiming victory in their fight to force a commercial airline company to cease cooperating with the Home Office on controversial charter deportation flights.

The SOAS Detainee Support (SDS) group claims that airline and holiday firm TUI is no longer facilitating Home Office deportations, after a campaign which saw activists occupy TUI stores across the UK last year.

‘Back-channel sources’

In a statement, the campaigners said that private companies should not make profit from the Home Office’s ‘brutal deportation regime’ and claimed that many deportees are ‘mistreated and abused’.

They said: “All deportations are racist, violent and wrong. No private organisations should be profiteering from the Home Office’s brutal deportation regime, and it is particularly shameful for a business to do so whilst selling itself as family-friendly and inclusive.

“The tragedy of the violence TUI engaged in is compounded by the harrowing treatment of many deportees, frequently mistreated and abused.”

They added: “This is a victory gained against the combined might of the Home Office and a billion-pound international company, by a grassroots coalition with few resources.”

TUI declined to comment on the case, while the Home Office provided a general response to NationalWorld, but noted that it does not comment on commercial arrangements.

SDS say that TUI has not carried out a deportation flight for almost six months, “whilst previously they were weekly” and claims to have learned of the arrangement coming to an end ‘through back-channels’.

After launching the campaign in 2021, activists coordinated actions online and in-person, targeting TUI with demonstrations and protests.

In August 2021, activists shut down 10 TUI stores across the country during a national day of action, followed by a large rally the following month.

It was after these high profile protests, SDS says, that they “received word through back channels that TUI had pulled out of their agreement with the government”.

How many people get deported each year?

Home Office statistics obtained by The Big Issue show the government ran 57 charter flights in 2021, deporting at least 1,155 people.

This was a significant increase on the 828 people removed in 2020, and almost three times the 410 deported in 2019.

While some of those who get deported have some form of criminal conviction unrelated to their immigration status, many have grown up in the UK, while others may have been caught up in criminal activity linked to modern slavery.

And legal experts point to numerous incidents where people who were removed at the last minute from chartered deportation flights went on to win their case to remain in the UK.

Human rights concerns

In November 2021, Jamaica’s top diplomat in the UK expressed concern about plans to deport a number of people from the UK, including one who arrived in the UK when he was three months old.

Seth Ramocan, Jamaica’s high commissioner in London, said: “From a human rights perspective I am deeply concerned about cases in which persons are being removed having lived in the UK since childhood and have no known relations in Jamaica or familiarity with Jamaica.

He added: “There are clear examples of these cases and I implore the Home Office to give due consideration to this concern.”

After activists attempted to disrupt the flight it was reported that the majority of the 50 people due to be deported to Jamaica were removed from the flight.

Deportation flights to Jamaica are of particular concern, as a result of the Windrush scandal.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The public rightly expects us to remove those who have no right to be in the UK, including dangerous foreign criminals and we make no apology for our efforts to keep the public safe.

“The New Plan for Immigration will fix this broken immigration system and stop the abuse we are seeing by expediting the removal of those who have no right to be here.”

You can read the full statement published by SOAS Detainee Support here.