Pilot puts foot down, blocks de­por­ta­tion ‘to death’

The Observer - - NEWS WORLD -

THE de­por­ta­tion of a young Afghan man re­fused asy­lum by Bri­tain has been dra­mat­i­cally stayed af­ter the pilot of the plane he was sup­posed to be de­ported on re­fused to take off.

Samim Bigzad’s friends and fam­ily feared their ef­forts to pre­vent him be­ing forced back to Kabul had failed when he was ar­rested and booked on a Turk­ish Air­lines flight to Is­tan­bul and on to Afghanistan.

The 22-year-old’s cousin had pre­vi­ously said Samim feared he would be killed in the city he fled two years ago af­ter the Tal­iban threat­ened to be­head him.

More than 3000 peo­ple had signed a pe­ti­tion ap­peal­ing for the de­por­ta­tion to be de­layed so his asy­lum claim could be re­viewed.

Cam­paign­ers trav­elled to Heathrow Air­port to talk to pas­sen­gers tak­ing the flight, in the hope they would raise ob­jec­tions to crew mem­bers.

Brid­get Chap­man, who or­gan­ised the trip, said ac­tivists “very qui­etly” ap­proached peo­ple at check-in to ex­plain their flight was be­ing used to forcibly de­port Mr Bigzad.

“We asked peo­ple to do what­ever they were com­fort­able with rais­ing it with air­line staff,” she said.

“Se­cu­rity asked us to stop af­ter a while, but ... most peo­ple had boarded.” Ms Chap­man, chair­woman of the Kent Anti-Racism Net­work, said cam­paign­ers “gen­uinely thought they had failed” when the flight even­tu­ally took off 45 min­utes late.

Euro­pean Avi­a­tion Safety Agency reg­u­la­tions say a pilot is re­spon­si­ble for the “safety of the air­craft and of all crew mem­bers, pas­sen­gers and cargo on board”, giv­ing them power over who boards the plane and when or if it takes off.

Mr Bigzad and guards were in the tun­nel by the door when the pilot came out and said: “You’re not go­ing to take him, I’m not fly­ing. Some­one’s life is at risk.”

PHOTO: AP

DUTY OF CARE: The de­por­ta­tion from Bri­tain of a young Afghan man has been pre­vented by a com­mer­cial air­line pilot.

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