Cast away: the UK's rushed charter flights to deport Channel crossers


Following the recent uptick in people arriving in the UK after crossing the Channel in small boats, there have been a number of swift deportations to EU states. Corporate Watch and Calais Migrant Solidarity report that "these mass deportations have been particularly brutal, and may have involved serious legal irregularities." Meanwhile, the EU recently rejected a UK plan to allow the continuation of such removals following the end of the Brexit 'transition period' on 31 December.

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Cast away: the UK’s rushed charter flights to deport Channel crossers (Corporate Watch, link):

"Warning: this document contains accounts of violence, attempted suicides and self harm.

The British government has vowed to clamp down on migrants crossing the Channel in small boats, responding as ever to a tabloid media panic. One part of its strategy is a new wave of mass deportations: charter flights, specifically targeting channel-crossers, to France, Germany and Spain.

There have been two flights so far, on the 12 and 26 August. The next one is planned for 3 September. The two recent flights stopped in both Germany (Duesseldorf) and France (Toulouse on the 12, Clermont-Ferrand on the 26). Another flight was planned to Spain on 27 August – but this was cancelled after lawyers managed to get everyone off the flight.

Carried out in a rush by a panicked Home Office, these mass deportations have been particularly brutal, and may have involved serious legal irregularities. This report summarises what we know so far after talking to a number of the people deported and from other sources. It covers:

  • The context: Calais boat crossings and the UK-France deal to stop them.

  • In the UK: Yarl’s Wood repurposed as Channel-crosser processing centre; Britannia Hotels; Brook House detention centre as brutal as ever.

  • The flights: detailed timeline of the 26 August charter to Dusseldorf and Clermont-Ferrand.

  • Who’s on the flight: refugees including underage minors and torture survivors.

  • Dumped on arrival: people arriving in Germany and France given no opportunity to claim asylum, served with immediate expulsion papers.

  • The legalities: use of the Dublin III regulation to evade responsibility for refugees.

  • Is it illegal?: rushed process leads to numerous irregularities."

The legal basis for these deportations is the Dublin Regulation, which sets out a series of criteria for allocating EU member state responsibility for an individual's asylum claim. Possible irregularities under this procedure are discussed further in the Corporate Watch article above. It appears increasingly unlikely that, come the end of the Brexit transition period on 31 December 2020, an equivalent agreement will be put in place.

See: EU rejects British plan for post-Brexit return of asylum seekers (The Guardian, link)

"A British plan presented to Brussels would allow the UK to return “all third-country nationals and stateless persons” who enter its territory without the right paperwork to the EU country they had travelled through to reach British shores.

The British government would have a reciprocal obligation to take in undocumented migrants arriving in the EU via the UK, excluding airport arrivals.

At a time when southern Europe has nearly 10 times more refugees and migrants arriving by sea, the UK plan has been described in Brussels as “very unbalanced” and “not good enough”."

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