2023 UK Charter Deportations: A Balance Sheet

[Content warning: suicide]

Drawing on Freedom of Information Act requests and flight data records, Corporate Watch has identified the carriers that profited from deportation charter flights from the UK in 2023. Though public discourse currently remains centred on the looming spectre of the Rwanda scheme, our information provides insights into a worrying upward trend in the deportation of Albanian nationals. Long-favoured as scapegoats by the Conservative government, Albanians also appear to have been targeted for convenience due to an agreement between the UK and Albanian governments.


  • Albanian migrants have continued to be the target of racist scapegoating by the Home Office in its bid to crack down on foreign national offenders and “illegal migrants”, in a growth of a trend from 2022. This group made up the largest contingent of deportees by far.
  • Portuguese carrier EuroAtlantic Airways topped the list of deportation airlines in 2023, carrying out 26 mass expulsions from the UK.
  • By the Home Office’s own admission, over half the flights between June and December involved the use of force against deportees by guards.

For data and analysis on flights in previous years, see here.

A note on terminology: At Corporate Watch, we use the term ‘deportation’ to describe any forced return of someone back to their country of origin, whatever the legal justification, and we avoid the dehumanising term ‘removal’. Although there is technically a legal distinction between ‘removal’ and ‘deportation’, we choose to talk in plain terms unless there is a reason to make this distinction clear.


In 2023, the Home Office deported a total of roughly 2,620 people on 60 charter jet flights. The figures represent a significant increase in the number of deportees in 2022, and more than double the amount for 2021. The list of destinations, however, has dropped massively over the past two years, from 13 in 2021, down to just four countries in 2023.

By far the highest number of returnees were Albanian nationals, with 2,251 people deported on 50 flights throughout the year. Romania registered a distant second, receiving 367 people on eight flights, while a flight carried just one person to Poland on August 29; another charter carried a lone deportee to Somalia earlier that month. A flight to Jamaica was cancelled on March 8.

The largest share of flights to Albania and Romania was operated by EuroAtlantic Airways, which flew to both countries a total of 26 times, followed by Titan at 14, Albastar at 11, and Corendon at 3. Privilege Style flew twice to Albania, Hi Fly once to Romania and GetJet once to Albania, while FAI Rent-a-jet flew the single flight to Somalia. It is not known what carrier operated the flight to Poland.

















1 (cancelled)






While the number of charter deportation flights from the UK in 2023 may have remained more or less consistent with the previous year, the massive increase in the number of deportees despite the drop in destination countries is almost entirely accounted for by the Home Office’s continued targeting of Albanian nationals. This rose from 497 in 2021 to over 900 in 2022, and finally to more than 2,250 in 2023.

It’s important to read this against wider deportation figures. According to the Home Office, there were a total of 6,393 enforced returns last year, an increase of 66% on 2022. The Home Office says that it deported 2,501 Albanians last year, which means they represent around 40% of all deportees, and the majority were expelled via chartered flights (rather than scheduled ones). The government says that this increase comes on the back of the agreement with Albania in December 2022 to “deter and disrupt illegal migration and criminal networks.”

The Conservative government has long scapegoated Albanian migrants. The Home Office has expended significant propaganda efforts to portray those arriving in the UK from the Balkan state as high-risk gangsters, while Rishi Sunak gleefully told Piers M*rgan in February of last year how his administration planned to “rachet up” the return of Albanian nationals over the coming months. Though the prime minister would appear to have delivered on this promise, his government’s propaganda is not borne out by their own statistics.

Of the 3,926 ‘foreign national offenders’ (FNOs) deported from the UK last year, approximately 1,453 were Albanian. The number of Albanian FNOs deported by charter jet stood at 1,312, meaning at least 41% of those aboard were not deported in relation to a criminal offence. What’s more, detainee support groups have also consistently criticised the government for often playing up FNO’s records to paint all returnees in this category as members of sophisticated transnational criminal networks. These organisations say the vast majority have in fact committed only minor offences, usually connected to the harsh realities of attempting to survive in the UK without access to an already broken welfare state, such as working without official permission, or sleeping rough.

The reality is that the Sunak government has in all likelihood simply seized upon its returns agreement with Albania as an opportunity to bolster its deportation figures, thereby backing up its claims of being ‘tough on migration’, after losing access to the Dublin Regulation, a European Union asylum processing system, in the aftermath of Brexit’s finalisation in December 2020.

Albanians continue to top the nationality deported by charter flight


In response to our freedom of information request, the Home Office said that the 61 flights booked and paid for by the government over the course of 2023 cost the public a total of £12,057,655, evening out to just shy of £200,000 per flight. This would entail a bill of £4,379 for each person aboard the 58 flights to Albania and Romania, which carried an average of 45 passengers per journey. It follows that price per-head would have risen significantly in the case of the single flights to Somalia and Poland, which carried just one passenger each, and indeed further still with regard to the grounded flight to Jamaica, which obviously carried none.

According to data compiled for this report, there were also 18 instances of use of force admitted by the Home Office over the course of 35 flights during the second half of 2023, amounting to just over 50% of flights. Investigations have revealed the tactics deployed by Mitie security staff aboard these charters, such as on the notorious scheduled flight to Rwanda that was grounded by an eleventh hour intervention by the European Court of Human Rights in June 2022. Human rights advocates found that multiple detainees were placed in “pain-inducing restraints” to prevent them from committing acts of self-harm, such was their state of distress over their imminent removal from the UK. One man, who is reported to have screamed in protest while hitting his head against the seat in front of him, had his wrists, arms and head restrained by custody officers, who then applied a “mandibular angle” pain technique to keep the man from biting his own tongue.

Threats of suicide from those scheduled for deportation on charter jets are also not uncommon. According to the same official reports, one individual on the aborted Rwanda flight was taken on board with his arms in bandages, having been found in his room at the detention centre cutting his wrists using parts of a broken drinks can. This is in addition to new figures from the Civil Fleet showing how at least 40 people died in 2023 while housed in Home Office asylum-seeker accommodation, with at least eight cases registered as either confirmed or suspected suicides. One of these is thought to have taken place on the Bibby Stockholm last September, an industrial barge leased by the Home Office as a housing unit for vulnerable migrants, likened to a “floating prison.”


The 60 charter deportation flights that actually took off in 2023 were operated by eight firms – possibly nine, given that it hasn’t been disclosed which company operated the single flight to Poland in August of last year.



Despite widespread domestic and international outcry, much has happened with regard to the government’s plans to deport vulnerable asylum seekers to Rwanda since Corporate Watch published its last balance sheet on UK charter deportations.

In November 2023, the UK Supreme Court found the Rwanda deportation plan to be unlawful on grounds that it posed a serious risk to migrants’ welfare and security. Yet the Conservative administration worked swiftly to develop a new bill circumventing this ruling by effectively declaring the central African state to be safe, which passed in December last year — despite a major rebellion by rightwing Tory MPs who felt it didn’t go far enough. This included former Immigration Minister Robert Jenrick, who earlier in the year had referred to those making the dangerous channel crossing in small boats as looking to “cannibalise” the UK by bringing in “different lifestyles and values.” Another was Lee Anderson, who famously resigned his post as Conservative chair in order to vote for an amendment to the bill that would have ensured international law could not have been used to prevent deportations under the scheme. He’d previously said migrants who objected to the often dire quality of asylum housing in the UK should “fuck off back to France.”

A temporary reprieve was secured after the House of Lords roundly rejected the bill, proposing a series of ten suggested amendments in an effort to temper some of the measures’ most dangerous provisions. These were in turn wholly rejected by the Commons, with the upper house eventually yielding on April 23 – incidentally the same night five people died trying to cross the English channel from France.

Since the bill entered law after receiving royal assent at the end of last month, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has claimed his government has already chartered commercial jets to operate the first flights under the scheme within the next few months, with at least one person reportedly already agreeing to be sent to the central African country under a voluntary scheme in exchange for £3,000. Though it is not yet known which carriers have agreed to participate in the non-voluntary scheme, AirTanker, which has previously flown deportation charters to various countries, is understood to be in ongoing talks with the government on the matter. The firm has refused to respond to thousands of requests from campaigners for clarity on its position, fuelling speculation it may already be preparing for the work.


Early figures indicate a total of 773 people have already been deported to Albania and Romania on 16 flights during the first quarter of this year. With the government actively engaged at the time of writing in a high-profile round-up of asylum seekers it says it is planning to send to Rwanda, it seems safe to say things are about to get a whole lot worse. As ministers stand accused of publicising these detentions as part of an effort to “bribe” right-wing voters, only time will tell just how far an increasingly desperate Conservative administration is willing to push the letter ahead of what polls currently predict will likely prove one of the most crushing electoral defeats in party history.

However, chartered deportation flights only serve as a convenient political spectacle for the UK government to detract from its litany of failings over the past 14 years for as long as there are carriers willing to fly those planes. At this stage, such is the level of both domestic and international outcry over the Rwanda plan that reports suggest AirTanker may in fact be the only operator to have stared down the prospect of commercial suicide over its potential participation in the scheme. Continued pressure and direct action against the raids and deportations arguably therefore never been as important, or as needed, as now.

Resistance earlier this month to a large-scale round up of migrants to the Bibby Stockholm ‘Floating Prison‘. Image: Southwark & Lambeth Anti-Raids