Virgin Atlantic stops providing seats for forcible deportations

Virgin Atlantic is stopping working with the Home Office on forcible deportations from the UK of people deemed to be illegal immigrants.

The airline has informed the government of its decision, saying it was “in the best interest of our customers and people”.

It comes amid concern over the removal of Windrush generation migrants and LGBT asylum seekers. Activists are urging other airlines to take similar action.

Virgin Atlantic said on Saturday: “We’ve made the decision to end all involuntary deportations on our network, and have already informed the Home Office.”

A spokeswoman declined to give details of the number of Virgin Atlantic flights or individuals affected.

The carrier has provided seats on its commercial flights to detainees and security officers accompanying them for many years, according to the Guardian.

A charity in Jamaica that helps resettle deported people told the newspaper detainees regularly arrived on Virgin flights.

Activist group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants said Virgin told it of the move in response to a yet-to-be published open letter it has written highlighting the deportations of people to countries where they risked persecution.

Sam Bjorn from the group added: “The fact that the company has finally opted to break with this controversial practice testifies to a profound shift in public opinion on deportation since the emergence of the Windrush scandal.”

The Windrush scandal hit headlines in April after it emerged that some migrants from Commonwealth countries, who were encouraged to settle in the UK from the late 1940s to 1973, were being wrongly categorised as illegal immigrants.

Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants wants British Airways and Qatar Airways – who also work on enforced deportations with the government – to end their involvement.

A Home Office spokesman said: “We do not comment on operational matters.”

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