Pilot refuses to fly to stop asylum seeker being deported

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A pilot halted the deportation of an Afghan asylum seeker after refusing to take off from Heathrow.

Samim Bigzad, 22, had been booked on a commercial flight back to his home country after immigration officers refused his application to remain in the UK – despite claims he was facing beheading by the Taliban.

His friends and family had been working with campaigners to stop him from being deported to Kabul, from where he fled two years ago after fearing he would be killed.

More than 3,000 people signed a petition appeal for Mr Bigzad’s deportation to be delayed so his asylum claim could be reviewed.

Campaigners from Kent Anti-Racism Network went to Heathrow to tell Turkish Airlines passengers that he was being deported on their plane on Saturday.

They asked passengers to do “whatever they were comfortable with to raise the issue with airline staff,” according to the Independent.

The Turkish Airlines pilot refused to take off with asylum seeker Samim Bigzaf on board (AFP/Getty Images)

The European Aviation Safety Agency says that a pilot is responsible for the “safety of the aircraft and of all crew members, passengers and cargo on board.”

The Turkish Airlines pilot refused to take off with Mr Bigzad on board and Bridget Chapman, chairwoman of the Kent Anti-Racism Network, said she had received a call to say he was back in the Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick.

Kavel Rafferty, who had been housing the asylum seeker, told the Independent: “The last message I’d had from him was so sad – it just said ‘they’ve come to take me’ and then the phone was switched off.

“But then he rang that night and told me ‘the pilot said no’. He was happy and shocked. There are so many people who would like to thank the pilot.”

Mr Bigzad’s cousin Arash also told the news site: “There were three guards who tried to force him onto the plane…my cousin was crying and shouting ‘I’m going to get killed in Afghanistan’.

“Samim said they 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.’”

Mr Bigzad had worked for a construction company which had contracts with American firms and the Afghan government and said he fled to the UK after repeated threats by the Taliban.

He arrived in the UK in 2015 and went to live with relatives. He was also helping to care for his sick father who had gained British citizenship.

In July while attending an immigration appointment he was refused asylum and detained.

A Home Office spokesman said: “All country policy and information is based on a careful and objective assessment of available evidence from a range of sources including media outlets, local, national and international organisations, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

“We continually review our country policy and information to ensure it is up-to-date, accurate and relevant, so that staff can make fair and considered decisions.”

Country policy and information notes provide assistance to immigration officers when deciding whether to grant asylum. 

The Home Office said if a person does not require international protection and there are no remaining rights of appeal or obstacles to return, they are expect to return voluntarily. It said if they refuse to leave voluntarily, it may become necessary to enforce their removal.


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