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BRITISH AIRWAYS has been condemned for sponsoring Britain’s biggest Pride event as it helps deport people who face persecution for their sexuality.
Activist group Lesbians & Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM) called on the airline to “stop being complicit” with the government in deporting people, as the Brighton Pride event began today.
The open letter claims the presence of firms at the event that “profit off deportations” is an affront to the vision of freedom that Pride represents.
Signatories include shadow home secretary Diane Abbott, Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy, Brighton Kemptown Labour MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Green Party equalities spokeswoman Aimee Challenor and British-US actor Andrew Garfield.
It said: “It is an added insult that many of those deported on British Airways are LGBTQIA+ people who should be marching with us at the parade but are instead brutally rounded up and ejected from the UK to face poverty, persecution and, in some cases, death.”
More than 50,000 people have signed an online petition calling on BA to stop helping the Home Office to deport LGBT people and people of the Windrush generation, of whom at least 63 have been wrongly deported, ministers have admitted.
The petition was started by Zita Holbourne, national chair of Black Activists Rising Against Cuts, to urge BA to follow the steps of Virgin Airlines, which announced in June that it would no longer offer seats to the Home Office to forcibly deport people deemed to be illegal immigrants.
That announcement followed a backlash over the Windrush scandal and amid pressure from campaigners in the run-up to London Pride, which Virgin sponsored.
A BA spokeswoman said: “It is a legal requirement under the Immigration Act 1971 for all airlines to deport people when asked to do so by the Home Office.
“Not fulfilling this obligation amounts to breaking the law. Airlines only have the right to refuse deportees on the basis that they feel there is a threat to the safety or security of the aircraft or its passengers or the individual.
“We are not given any personal information about the individual being deported, including their sexuality or why they are being deported.
“The process we follow is a full risk assessment, with the Home Office, which considers the safety of the individual, our customers and crew on the flight.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “No-one who is found to be at risk of persecution on the grounds of sexual orientation and/or gender identity will be returned to their country of origin.
“However, where someone is found not to need international protection and has no other basis to remain in the UK, we do expect them to leave.”
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