Deportation Charter Flights: updated report 2018

Each year, the UK Home Office deports over 12,000 people in “enforced returns”. Over 20,000 more are pushed into so-called “voluntary” departure.i

The majority of deportations take place on standard scheduled flights, like the 2010 British Airways flight on which Jimmy Mubenga was killed by three G4S guards in the back seats of the plane. But perhaps the most brutal face of the UK border regime is the practice of mass deportation charter flights. Up to 2,000 people a year are loaded onto these secretive night flights, often shackled in “waist restraint belts” or “leg restraints”. Deportees are manhandled by private security “escorts” (working for Mitie) onto aircraft hired from charter companies including Titan Airways.

This is an update of our 2017 charter flights factsheet. It gives a short overview of deportations as a whole, then looks in more depth at charter flights in particular. To highlight a few recent points:

  • The security guards are now supplied by Mitie, under a 10 year £524 million contract. They took over from Tascor (a subsidiary of Capita) in May.
  • Carlson Wagonlit Travel, which is in charge of liaising with airlines to book all scheduled and chartered flights, had its contract renewed for another five years.
  • Recent charter flights have left from smaller airports such as Biggin Hill, and from military bases like Brize Norton. And the Home Office has stopped notifying people of charter flight departure times. (These two changes came after the “lock-on” blockade which stopped a Nigeria charter plane at Stansted Airport in March 2017).
  • Albania, Pakistan, Nigeria/Ghana are still the main routes. But there are now also regular charters to European countries deporting people under the “Dublin” agreement. These are particularly brutal in terms of use of force.
  • The overall number of deportations continues to fall.
  • East Europeans continue to be top targets for deportations —  we have not yet seen a decrease after last December’s High Court ruling against the round-up of European rough sleepers.

See also our extended report from 2013 “Collective Expulsion: the case against mass deportation charter flights”, which argues in depth that these charter flights are unlawful.

Also see our analysis of government deportations targets since 2000, and how detention and deportations don’t work as a “deterrent”.

And see the End Deportations website for campaigning against charter flights.

1. Deportations: an overall snapshot

The UK Home Office “removes” tens of thousands of migrants every year. We prefer to use plain language and call all of these “deportations”. Officially, though, they are classed in a number of categories:

  • The Home Office uses the word “deportations” only to people being deported on “public policy” rather than “immigration” grounds. Usually, this means “foreign national offenders” who have been convicted of crimes.
  • The large majority of cases, which don’t involve any crime being committed, are called “returns”. These include, for example, people whose asylum claim has been refused, or people found to be overstaying their visa. “Enforced returns” means that they are taken to the airport by Home Office staff – usually, contracted security guards.
  • “Voluntary returns” are where people leave by themselves under the threat of enforced removal. The Home Office may pay their fares under the “Assisted Voluntary Return” scheme and other programmes. “Coerced” would be a more accurate description than voluntary. For example, often people agree to voluntary return as a way to get out of detention, knowing otherwise they could be locked up for months waiting for bail.

There were 12,229 “enforced returns” in 2017. At least another 19,896 people agreed to “voluntary return”ii. So 32,125 people were “returned” altogether.

Media often make out that people deported are dangerous “foreign criminals”. In fact, only 5,865 “foreign national offenders” were “returned” in 2017, either by “enforced” or “voluntary” deportation. That is, 18% of the total.

The number of forced deportations has been gradually declining since its peak in the early 2000s. There were 14,395 “enforced returns” in 2014, 14,854 “enforced removals” back in 2010, and as many as 21,425 back in 2004.iii

The Home Office says that its aim is to increase the number of voluntary, as opposed to enforced, returns. This is for cost reasons: it is much cheaper if people leave without a security escort. And indeed there was a marked increase in “voluntary” deportations in the early years of this policy shift. Only 3,566 people left “voluntarily” back in 2004, but the number rose every year from then to reach 32,178 in 2013. However, it has been declining since that.

The official rationale of Theresa May’s “hostile environment” approach is precisely to push people to leave “voluntarily” by making life unliveable in the UK. The official figures do not show this working. “Voluntary return” numbers were falling just as the keystones of the hostile environment, the 2014 and 2016 Immigration Acts, were introduced.

Who is deported?

One obvious shift in the last few years is the increased deportation of Europeans, including EU and other European Economic Area (EEA) nationals. In 2017, 6,931 European nationals were deported by force from the UK, 57% of the total. 41% of all forced deportees were EU citizens.

In both 2016 and 2017, the three main nationalities targeted for deportation were all Eastern European: Romania, Albania, and Poland. 1,715 Romanians were deported in 2017, 1,599 Albanians, and 1,213 Poles.

Albanians have long been a prime target for the Home Office, and of course for the UK anti-migrant media, since the fall of the Soviet bloc and the Balkan wars. Albania is not part of the EU or EEA, and so its citizens have fewer international rights than most other Europeans. A newer development is the move to detain and deport large numbers of citizens of EU member states, including Romania and Poland. Until 2011, EU citizens never made up more than 10% of forced deportees. The proportion has been rising rapidly each year since then.

The Home Office clearly switched to a deliberate policy of targeting East Europeans after this time, using the legal argument that they are “not exercising their treaty rights”. This started some years ahead of the Brexit vote, but was no doubt linked to attempts by the government to address media panics about East European immigration numbers. In November 2017, the High Court ruled against one form of the targeting of EU migrants – but we have not yet seen this affect detention and deportation numbers.

East Europeans have been replacing Asians as the main target groups. Between 2005 and 2014, people of Asian and Middle Eastern nationalities were the main targets of enforced deportation in every year. They still made up 28% of the total in 2017. Above all, this means people from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh – the nationalities who are most hit in Immigration Enforcement raids. 876 people from India were forcibly deported in 2017, 829 from Pakistan, and 424 from Bangladesh.

Other big nationalities were Lithuania (649), Nigeria (391), China (318), Jamaica (250), and Vietnam (215).

2. Charter Flights: the basics

Mass deportations on chartered aircraft are only one small part of the deportation system. Many more people are “removed” on standard scheduled flights. But in many ways charters are the system’s most brutal and terrifying instrument, taking place away from the public gaze in secretive night flights.

And they have come to shape the whole immigration enforcement system: as people from specific nationalities are targeted for arrest and detention in order to fill the planes (see Section 4 below).

target countries

The UK began using charter deportations in 2001. From the beginning, they have targeted a handful of countries, mainly those symbolically identified with the “refugee crisis”, and with the UK’s war machine. But also, the countries involved in charters are just those the UK has been able to strike mass deportation deals with, often embedded as part of wider trade and “aid” negotiations.

The first flights were to Kosovo and Albania – and Albania is still the number one charter destination, with 15 flights to Tirana in 2017, and at least eight more in the first half of 2018. Albania flights go by the codename “Aardvark”. Romania and the Czech Republic soon followed, with Roma people the main targets of these deportations. In 2003 charters began to Afghanistan, newly declared “safe”. For the next nine years, the majority of flights were to Kosovo / Albania and Afghanistan.

More recently, Pakistan has taken over as a main charter “partner”, since a landmark trade deal was struck with the Pakistani government in 2011. The Home Office flew 11 deportation flights there (Islamabad) in 2017, six in the first half of 2018. (Codename: Monroe).

African countries have also now became regular destinations, notably Nigeria and Ghana (Lagos and Accra): nine planes went to one or both countries in 2017, four in the first half of 2018. (Codename: Majestic-Gardner.) September 2016 also saw the first charter flight to Jamaica since 2014, and there was another charter to the island in 2017. (Codename: Waldrop.)

Flights have ceased, at least for the meantime, to Iraq and Sri Lanka, after successful political and legal campaigns involving refugee movements from these countries. In the case of Iraq, organised opposition in the destination country was a major factor, which led to the Iraqi parliament and Iraqi Kurdish authorities refusing to accept deportees. In May 2017, it appeared that the Home Office was attempting to renew Iraqi charters, after more than 30 Iraqi Kurds and others were rounded up and detained. Vigorous campaigning again helped win the release of most of them; although a few were deported on scheduled flights run by Royal Jordanian, Turkish Airlines and Qatar Airways.

Flights to Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) have also stopped for the moment, but they continue from other European countries. Back in 2014 there were nine charters to Afghanistan, then three in 2015. But many fear they Afghan charters will also soon resume from the UK.

Dublin” flights

One new development, in February 2017, was the introduction of regular “Dublin” charter flights deporting asylum seekers to other EU countries. The Dublin Regulation states that refugees can be sent back to claim asylum in the first “safe” European country in which they are recorded. 314 people were deported under the Dublin regulation in 2017, almost half of them on charter flights. There were five such charters to Germany (Frankfurt and Leipzig) in 2017, and one flight that stopped in France, the Czech Republic and Bulgaria (Toulouse, Vienna and Sofia). In the first half of 2018 there were two “multidrop” flights: one stopping in France, Austria, and Bulgaria; one in just France and Bulgaria.

There is a different chain of command for the Dublin flights: they are overseen by a separate Home Office department called the “Third Country Unit” (TCU). The security guards are the same. However, inspection reports reveal that a higher level of physical force is used on these flights, including all prisoners being automatically placed in waist restraint belts (see below).

Note that all of the people on Dublin flights were refugees, none of them were “criminality cases”.

Home Office Charter Flights in 2017

Total: 42 flights, 1,664 people (1,565 male, 99 female)

Albania: 15 flights, 681 people

Pakistan: 11 flights, 489 people

Nigeria/Ghana: 7 flights, 261 people

Germany: 5 flights, 120 people

Nigeria: 2 flights, 57 people

Jamaica: 1 flight, 32 people

Bulgaria/Czech Republic/France 1 flight, 24 people

Source: Freedom of Information Requests to the Home Office, published by

more charter flight figures

The UK government does not routinely publish data on charter flight deportations. However, it does release some information on the numbers and destinations of people deported on these flights in response to Freedom of Information (FOI) requests. You can read here a response from the Home Office listing all charter flights, their destinations and numbers on board, from the start of 2016 to the end of May 2018.

In 2016, 1571 people were deported on charter flights. Thanks to an earlier Freedom of Information request submitted by Thomas Avery we know that 1,877 people were deported on charters in 2015, and 2,364 in 2014. So, as with enforced deportations overall, numbers appear to be generally going down in recent years.

As with deportations in general, media reporting of charters presents them as being laden with dangerous “criminals”. Only 31% of people sent on charter flights in 2017 were criminal “deportations” (in 2016 it was 33%, and below 30% in 2015 and 2014). Only 6% of those removed on charter flights in 2017 were women (5% in 2016).

Campaigners against charter flights have highlighted the particular torture of the “reserve” system, in which many more people are booked on flights than are actually deported. Sometimes dozens are taken on coaches from the detention centre, waiting for last minute news from lawyers or officials about their cases, before being sent back or released at the last minute.

This remains standard practice. In 2017, in fact 4,314 people were given “removal directions” for charter flights (3,771 in 2016). So only about 40% of people who are told they are going to be on the plane are actually taken.

3. What are charter flights for?

Every now and then, right-wing media run stories slamming the exorbitant cost of charter flights. And, indeed, they are expensive to run. In 2015, then Immigration minister James Brokenshire stated in parliament that they cost over £5,000 per person deported. The precise figure for 2017 was in fact £5,345.56.iv

Corporate Watch’s 2013 report on charter flights, “Collective Expulsion”, analysed in some depth the expenses of charter flights, and considered some of the reasons why the UK Home Office chooses to use this means despite the cost. Our report highlighted a number of possible factors.

1) Meeting targets. Charter flights are a quick way to organise mass deportations of particular nationalities, so helping meet Home Office headline targets. In 2000, then Home Secretary Jack Straw set the first known deportation targets, aiming to deport 30,000 people in 2001-2. A 2002 government white paper explained: “Despite the cost of charter flights, this is a very efficient way of enforcing the volume departure of those who have no right to stay here.”

2. Stifling rebellion. This aim was very clearly put in 2009 by David Wood, then UKBA (Home Office) head of Criminality and Detention, who explained that the charter flight programme is:

a response to the fact that some of those being deported realised that if they made a big enough fuss at the airport – if they took off their clothes, for instance, or started biting and spitting – they could delay the process. We found that pilots would then refuse to take the person on the grounds that other passengers would object. So although we still use scheduled flights, we use special flights for individuals who are difficult to remove and might cause trouble.”

3. “Deterrent effect”. As with other aspects of the UK border regime, the Home Office views charter flights as a terrorising “deterrent” for those who remain or who might yet arrive. There is no evidence of it actually working.

4. Foreign policy tool. Charters only go to a select number of countries where the UK has specific agreements with partner governments. Charters have a particular symbolic value in international relations, perhaps in a number of respects. For example, they may be used to demonstrate that a country is now “safe” after British military intervention: as in the cases of Kosovo and Afghanistan, and less successfully Iraq. In the Sri Lankan case, Tamil campaigners argued that charters also served as an instrument of the Sri Lankan state in both “normalising” its post-war regime and terrorising the Tamil diaspora. In the cases of Nigeria, Jamaica, Pakistan and other charter destinations, these agreements may play other complex material and symbolic roles within wider trade, aid, and “security” negotiations with Britain’s former colonies.

For more on these points see: Corporate Watch “Collective Expulsion: The case against Britain’s mass deportation charter flights”, by Phil Miller and Shiar Youssef, 2013.

4. How charter flights work: the mechanics

Step 1. High politics

Charter flight routes are agreed between the UK and other states at the highest political and diplomatic levels. For example, the first in the new wave of charters to Pakistan took place in November 2011, not long after a visit by then prime minister David Cameron to negotiate a new “Enhanced Strategic Dialogue”, which included an objective of increasing bilateral trade to £2.5 billion per year as well as a £650 million “education aid” programme. The flight itself took place on the same day of a visit to Pakistan by then home secretary Theresa May. The first flight to Ghana took place in the same month, just a few weeks after a visit by then Immigration Minister Damian Green.v

Step 2. The routine is fixed

For the main destinations – Albania, Pakistan, and Nigeria / Ghana – flights are scheduled at more or less regular intervals. So in 2017, there was at least one flight to Albania each month; a flight to Pakistan in most months; and flights to Nigeria and/or Ghana roughly every six weeks.

In the first six months of 2018 there were again flights to Albania every month, with two in April and two in June. There was one flight to Pakistan each month. There were flights to Nigeria and Ghana in January, February, March, and May, each time at the end of the month.

Altogether, flights are spaced out so there is no more than one a week. In all cases we have seen, they take place in the middle of the week: Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday. (This has been the case since at least 2014).

Flights to the longer distance destinations, are scheduled to take off at night: e.g., 22.30 for Pakistan, and 23.30 for Nigeria. Albanian and other European flights tend to be scheduled for the morning: typically 07.45am for Tirana flights in 2017, and around 10am for Germany. The two Jamaica flights in 2017 were both scheduled for 6.30 am. Of course, flights may often not take off on time.

Step 3. Filling up the flights: the “National Removals Command”

In July 2013, the Home Office set up a central unit called “National Removals Command” (NRC) within Immigration Enforcement. This unit, based in Croydon’s Lunar House, is in charge of arranging detentions and deportations, as well as running the “assisted voluntary return” scheme. To do this it liaises with the Immigration Control and Enforcement (ICE) teams who carry out raids and arrests on the ground.

The official procedure is basically as follows. First, “illegal migrants” are picked when reporting at signing centres, in ICE raids, or perhaps by the police. The arrest team contacts NRC, who give the order as to whether or not the person should be detained. Once in detention, NRC decides how and when to deport the detainee, including whether they should be put on a charter flight.

In reality, we know that NRC has spaces to fill on the charter flights, and this will affect how they decide about which people to target and detain. We believe that:

  • ICE teams have standing instructions to find and arrest quotas of migrants from the regular “charter nationalities”, i.e., at the present time, Pakistanis, Albanians, Nigerians and Ghanaians. Home Office statistics show that these nationalities are particularly hit by deportations, although it is hard to show whether the existence of regular charter routes is a cause or a result – or both – of this.
  • If a specific less regular charter flight is planned, e.g., the occasional flights to Jamaica, ICE teams may be given specific instructions to round up people of these nationalities in the weeks running up to the flight. There is plenty of anecdotal evidence of this pattern.

The Home Office has repeatedly denied the practice of targeting particular nationalities to fill planes. However, we have seen written confirmation of it in an official document that was released on the order of the Information Commissioner after Corporate Watch won a Freedom Of Information legal battle in 2015. This is an audit report by the director of Harmondsworth detention centre in 2014. He writes:

Figures rising and falling [in the detention centre] can often be attributed to the amount of charter operations in progress by DEPMU [a Home Office unit] and other pick up operations in effect from the Home office enforcement teams. In certain circumstances these two departments may work together to focus on a specific nationality to fill a charter …”

Step 4. Booking the plane

The Home Office reveals little about exactly how charter flights are arranged and carried out. Much of the logistics is outsourced to a private company called Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT). This company has been the Home Office’s “travel services” contractor since 2004. Its initial contract was renewed in 2010, and again in 2017, and is now scheduled to last until 2024.

According to the “Independent Chief Inspector of Borders and Immigration”, CWT’s job covers: “management of charter flights and ticketing provision for scheduled flights for migrants subject to enforced removal and escorts, where required, and the management of relationships with carriers to maintain and expand available routes.”

I.e., it is Carlson Wagonlit that deals with the airlines and books the planes, rather than the Home Office directly. This includes both charters and scheduled deportations. The cost of the contract is around £30 million per year – about half of that goes on scheduled flight tickets, and more will be passed on by CWT to the charter companies it sub-contracts. Carlson Wagonlit itself is expected to be paid £5.7 million for its administrative services over the current seven year deal.

The Home Office has repeatedly refused to release information on the companies that lease the planes, citing “commercial confidentiality”. And, unlike other large government contracts including even Ministry of Defence charters, the contracts do not appear in public tender databases. This may just be because they are all sub-contracted through Carlson Wagonlit. Corporate Watch has contacted CWT in the past about its contract, and been told that the company is “prohibited” from speaking.

One company that has certainly provided charter planes on at least a number of occasions, as testified by multiple deportees and supporters, is Titan Airways. We do not know at this time whether other charter companies are also involved.

Step 5. Notice period

If the Home Office plans to deport someone, it should give them notice. For people deported on normal scheduled flights, the usual notice period is 72 hours, including two working days. For charter flights, “third country” (“Dublin”) cases in general, it is five working days. Most people deported on normal scheduled flights may be given only 72 hours days

People on scheduled flights are usually given exact flight details, including the airline and departure time. But since spring 2017 – in fact, since the successful blockade of a charter flight to Nigeria at Stansted airport in March 2017 – this is no longer the case for charter flights. Standard practice now is to just give people a letter informing them of a “removal window”: i.e., that they will be deported any time after the end of the five day notice period, and within 21 days.

In practice, that usually means people booked on a charter flight are given a removal notice letter the week before. In the cases we have seen, notices are issued from Monday to Thursday, and the actual flight is from Tuesday to Thursday the next week. Occasionally, flights are rescheduled for a few days later, in which case further warning must be given.

The reason for the notice period is to give people a chance to make legal appeals against their deportations. For scheduled flights, deportations are normally stopped if the deportee can get in an application for Judicial Review. (Note “normally”: see the latest Home Office guidance for full details.) Things are not so simple for charter flights: in many cases, the Home Office will not let someone off the flight without an injunction from the courts. This is why the notice period is longer.

In practice, these notice periods give very little time to get a case through the legal system to stop a flight. Particularly as the majority of detainees’ only access to legal representation is queuing up for the few sessions run by the handful of legal aid lawyers with contracts to work inside the detention centres.

Even so, some do manage to get last minute injunctions to stay their deportations. Often that really means the very last minute, when people are on the way to or waiting at the airport. For this reason the Home Office routinely issues removal directions to more people than will actually fit on the flight, and takes extra coach loads of these “reserves” to the airport, in order to fill up the spaces of those whose lawyers are successful. (See Corporate Watch’s “Collective Expulsion” 2013 report for more on the reserve system).

Step 6. Detention centre to airport

Until 2017, deportation charters typically left from Stansted Airport, east of London. More recently the Home Office has also been using smaller airports such as Biggin Hill, south east of London, and also military airfields such as Brize Norton. (Again, this change appears to have followed the Stansted blockade in March 2017).

In the days before the flight, people held in faraway detention centres (e.g., Dungavel in Scotland, or Morton Hall in Lincolnshire) may be transferred to the main London centres near Gatwick and Heathrow (Brook House, Tinsley House, Harmondsworth and Colnbrook). According to the Unity Centre, detainees are typically put into cells alone the night before the flight, and may be moved to a separate wing for this purpose.

On the day of the flight itself, detainees are boarded onto coaches, usually many hours ahead of the scheduled departure time. For example, for the flights scheduled to take off at night, coaches can begin boarding at the detention centres in the early afternoon. For flights leaving in the morning, deportees are woken in detention centres in the middle of the night. E.g., on an Albania flight observed by the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB),the discharge process at one IRC started just after 01:00”, and at 3 am for a Germany flight.

Shortly before boarding the coaches, guards will come to people’s cells, tell them to gather their belongings, and take away their mobile phones. The prisoners are gathered in a hall or stairwell, then walked onto the coaches accompanied by “escort” guards. They may spend many hours penned on the coach. On 2017 flights monitored by the IMB, people in Brook House were often picked up first and spent longest on the coaches: “from five hours to seven hours forty minutes.”

The HMIP inspection of the flight to France, Austria and Bulgaria gives further detail on timings (although this one seems to have gone more quickly than others):

The first detainee boarded a coach at Brook House at 1.15am and the last at 3.35am (all times GMT). The Brook House coach arrived at the airport at 4.30am. At Colnbrook, the first detainee was placed on the coach at 2am. The coach left Colnbrook at 4.20am and arrived at the airport at 5.27am. Detainees started to be taken from the coach on to the aircraft at 5.45am. By 6.40am, all detainees had boarded the aircraft and it took off an hour later at 7.40am.”

Both escorts and coaches are provided by private contractors. Under the Home Office’s current arrangements, the same big security contract covers escorting for both charter and scheduled deportations, and also moving detainees between detention centres and running “short term holding facilities”. The current contractor is Mitie, who won the job from Tascor, a subsidiary of Capita, in May 2018. Before Tascor, the contract was held by G4S until 2010, the year in which three of their escorts killed Jimmy Mubenga.

Various coach companies have been used. One of the best known is WH Tours, based in Crawley, not far from Gatwick Airport. Hallmark Coaches is another recent firm.

Recently the Home Office have had big troubles with their coach contractors. In May 2017 an elderly coach overheated and had to pulled off the road, where deportees and guards waited until a new vehicle arrived. According to the IMB: “there was something fundamentally wrong with a coach used in September; a lot of noise and juddering during the journey. The driver was reluctant at one point to turn off the ignition in case the engine would not then re-start.”

Then on 14 February 2018, a coach caught fire on the M25 not far out of Harmondsworth. According to detainees on the coach interviewed by the Guardian, guards spent minutes handcuffing everyone before taking them off “just minutes before the vehicle exploded and as fumes filled the cabin”.

Detainees often arrive at the airport before the actual flight. In Stansted, deportation planes have been seen to leave from the private aviation area at the western side of the airport, which is clearly visible from the perimeter. On arrival, coaches may head for the “Inflite Jet Centre” building. Escorts may get off the coaches to use facilities or stretch their legs, while detainees are kept on the coaches until boarded onto the plane.

Step 7. On the plane

On the plane itself, deportees are generally outnumbered at least two to one by escorts. Waist restraint belts (WRBs), in which people’s arms are shackled to their sides, are common. On two 2017 “Dublin” flights inspected by Her Majesty’s Inspector of Prisons (HMIP) and the Independent Monitoring Board (IMB), waist restraints were automatically used on 100% of detainees. On other inspected flights, a minority were restrained. Leg and head restraints are also used. Pain compliance techniques are used to put unwilling people into restraint, and those who continue to struggle are carried onto the plane. We’ll quote just one example from the IMB report:

A young woman did not want to go. She refused to stand up and leave the coach to board the aircraft. She was cuffed to get her off the coach. She stood on the tarmac weeping. She was asked whether she was willing to walk and allowed a matter of seconds in which to decide. She did not appear to make a decision. She was put into a WRB, then into leg restraints as she continued to weep and say “You cannot take me this way” and then carried on board. She was not fighting, just weeping.”

Official inspections by HMIP and IMB note some guards showing “empathy”, but others who appear to enjoy intimidating, abusing and humiliating their prisoners. And this is in the presence of an inspector. Personal accounts by people being deported without any such oversight are more harrowing still.vii

Step 8. aftermath

What happens once the plane lands? There is little or no official information on this: the Home Office has now washed its hands of the people it deported. Some may be simply dumped in an airport, perhaps in a “third country” they have no connection with. Others are met by authorities from the arrival country, and may then be arrested, interrogated, imprisoned again, and in some cases tortured or “disappeared”.


i All figures used below, unless otherwise noted, come from the tables attached to this Home Office report. The Home Office published quarterly Immigration statistics releases, which includes the basic figures on detention and deportation numbers and nationalities. You can find the latest figures here:

iiThis was the figure published in the Home Office’s May 2018 quarterly statistical release. It may be revised higher in later releases, as there is a lag in collecting the “voluntary returns” data while the Home Office waits for confirmation people have left.

iiiThese figures are not directly comparable, because there has been a change in the Home Office’s headline figure. Numbers reported in the older category of “enforced removals” are slightly lower than in the newer category of “enforced returns”. This means that the drop in forced deportation numbers is in fact a bit bigger than these figures represent.

ivSource: Freedom of Information response published by The Home Office says it spent a total £8,895,027 on deporting 1,664 people on charter flights in 2017.

vSee Corporate Watch: Collective Expulsion p19

viThe guidelines are contained in a Home Office document called “Judicial Reviews and Injunctions”. The latest edition at time of writing is version 15.0, May 2018:

viiA few useful articles and eyewitness accounts on deportation flights: James Bridle – “Planespotting”; Unity Centre Glasgow on May 24 2016 flight to Nigeria and Ghana;

“Ghosted Away: UK’s secret removal flights examined” by Lotte Lewis Smith;

“Rough handling and restraint: UK forced removals still a nasty business” by Lotte Lewis Smith