Germany: Protest at Lufthansa AGM


On 15 June, the "deportation.class" campaign and the Organisation of Critical Shareholders (DKAA, Dachverband der Kritischen Auktionarinnen und Auktionare) protested at the annual general meeting of Lufthansa AG, calling on the aviation company to end forced deportations involving its aircraft. The "no one is illegal" network started their Lufthansa campaign, deportation.class (see, www.deportation-alliance.com), a year ago and it has attracted much media attention. The campaign has emphasised the damage to the company's image through deportation "deals". It has also attracted broad based support from German celebrities, critical shareholders and IT specialists.

The campaign gained widespread attention some months ago when thousands of spoof leaflets were found at travel agents, airports and Lufthansa outlets, advertising a new deal for customers. They offered cheap flights to "Third World" destinations, claiming that the only drawback was the transportation of a "deportee" on the same flight. Customers were reassured, that the deportation would not disturb anyone, as there was a hermetically sealed section at the back of the aircraft, ensuring an undisturbed flight. Unfortunately, it claimed, Lufthansa could not guarantee that personnel and police officers could manage without the use of shackles, gags and sedatives, but customers would benefit from the deal in other ways, for example from the free use of a shuttle from town to the airport, generously provided for by the Aliens Office.

The shareholders meeting was dominated by the "deportation" issue. "Air hostesses" greeted shareholders with information on Lufthansa's involvement in thousands of deportations every year, while members of the no one is illegal network re-enacted a forced deportation, recalling that of Aamir Ageeb, who died on a Lufthansa scheduled light in May 1999 (see Statewatch vol 9 nos 3 & 4). Around 30 activists got into the meeting and unrolled a banner commemorating the deaths of Aamir and Kola Bankole, who died on a Lufthansa aircraft in 1994. Other activists had bought Lufthansa shares, and the DKAA argued that the continued involvement in deportations gave Lufthansa a serious "image" problem which was detrimental for shareholders. They proposed a motion accusing the managing board of responsibility for the deportations which was rejected.

The legal arguments around liability however, could not be dismissed. After public criticism last year, the company declared an end to all enforced deportations, but claimed it had no choice in transporting deportees per se. Gisela Seidler, a lawyer specialising in immigration and foreigner law and a member of no one is illegal, says that this is deliberate "misinformation". Since the Tokyo Agreement (1963), sole responsibility on board lies with the captain, she said. Seidler pointed to a decision by Lufthansa last year, which ordered an end to the transportation of tropical birds for "ethical" reasons. Their decision established the principal that the company is not obliged to transport them and triggered demands by human rights activists for it to be extended to humans. Further, the claim made by managing director Jurgen Weber, that Lufthansa had ended all deportations involving force was refuted by activists; the no one is illegal campaign has received calls from passengers who have witnessed enforced deportations.

The Lufthansa campaign in Germany has put the company in the spotlight and has created difficulties for the German authorities when reassuring its "deportation agents" that they are acting within the law. Activists have already targeted KLM, Sabena and Air France and recent events suggest that British Airways is under scrutiny.

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