Five United Nations (UN) human rights Special Rapporteurs yesterday criticised the use of terrorism-related legislation to prosecute the so-called Stansted 15, a group of activists who attempted to stop an immigration deportation flight at Stanstead Airport in March 2017.
BBC News reported that the 15 were last year found guilty of endangering the safety of an aerodrome. They were sentenced yesterday. Three received suspended jail terms and 12 received community orders.
Raj Chada, a partner from Hodge Jones and Allen who represented the defendants, said in a statement yesterday: “While we are relieved that none of our clients face a custodial sentence, today is still a sad day for justice. Our clients prevented individuals being illegally removed from the UK and should never have been charged under counterterrorism legislation.”
A group of UN Special Rapporteurs expressed grave concern that the 15 protesters were prosecuted and convicted under security and terrorism-related legislation.
The UN experts said in a statement: “We are concerned about the application of disproportional charges for what appears to be the exercise of the rights to peaceful and non-violent protest and freedom of expression. It appears that such charges were brought to deter others from taking similar peaceful direct action to defend human rights and in particular the protection of asylum seekers.”
The Stansted 15 said themselves said in a statement: “These terror convictions and the ten-week trial that led to them are an injustice that has profound implications for our lives. The convictions will drastically limit our ability to work, travel and take part in everyday life. Yet, people seeking asylum in this country face worse than this: they are placed in destitution and their lives in limbo, by the Home Office’s vicious system every single day.
“When a country uses draconian terror legislation against people for peaceful protest, snatches others from their homes in dawn raids, incarcerates them without time limit and forces them onto planes in the middle of the night, due to take them to places where their lives might be at risk, something is very seriously wrong. Every single one of us should be very worried about our democracy and our future.”
Meanwhile, a deportation flight to Jamaica yesterday attracted much attention.
The Guardian reported that more than 50 foreign national offenders who were being held in detention centres were due to be placed on the flight, but many of them were able to have their removal cancelled after their lawyers took action.
The Home Office said 29 “serious foreign criminals” were on the flight.
According to BBC News, Home Secretary Sajid Javid defended the deportations, but campaigners claimed the government’s “hostile environment” immigration policy was to blame for the deportations and many of the deportees had been in the UK since childhood.
Satbir Singh, the chief executive of Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants (JCWI), told the Guardian: “It’s inappropriate for the government to resume mass deportations, particularly to the Caribbean, before the Windrush Lessons Learned review has even concluded. If you’ve lived here your whole life, this is your home. And if you commit a crime, you should serve your sentence and then be released. That’s how a justice system works in a civilised country.”
A Home Office spokesman defended the deportations and told the Guardian: “It is only right that we seek to deport foreign nationals who abuse our hospitality by committing crimes in the UK. This ensures we keep the public safe. All individuals on this charter flight are serous criminals.”