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Qantas flight protest delays transfer of SL refugee

2 February 2015 12:37 pm - 2     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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A Sri Lankan asylum seeker has been taken off a commercial flight from Melbourne to Darwin and his forced relocation postponed because of an onboard protest by other passengers, The Guardian said.

It was the second time in two months the planned forced movement of an asylum seeker has been abandoned because of demonstrations on board a plane.

On Monday, immigration staff was taking a 25-year-old Sri Lankan asylum seeker on a Qantas flight from Melbourne to Darwin, ahead of his expected deportation.

The man had been previously been living in the community but was recently re-detained.

He has told immigration officials he fears being tortured upon being returned to Sri Lanka.

UK’s high court, international media, and human rights organisations have consistently raised concerns over Sri Lankan asylum seekers being tortured upon return to Sri Lanka.

The asylum seeker was found by Australian authorities not to raise protection obligations.

On Monday, the Tamil man was seated on the plane, flanked by security officers, when one protester, who held a ticket for the flight, stood up and began telling other passengers about the man’s situation and his fears of being returned.

“After it was explained to the passengers what was happening and that [the asylum seeker] was on the flight, two passengers stood up and refused cabin staff instructions to buckle up. They were escorted off the plane by the staff,” demonstrator Jasmine Pilbrow said.

“Police officers then came and spoke to me. I left the plane after they decided to take [the asylum seeker] off the plane. I walked off behind him.”

The asylum seeker has been taken back to detention in Melbourne, where he says he is “fine”.

A Department of Immigration spokeswoman said the flight was a “routine transfer … not a deportation” that was interrupted by protesters. The flight was delayed about 50 minutes.

“Due to the action of these protesters, the transfer did not proceed and some passengers were inconvenienced as a result. This was an unfortunate incident and the department will continue with plans to transfer this detainee.”

It is the second time in two months a planned forced movement of an asylum seeker has been thwarted by protest.

In December, the deportation of a Chinese national was abandoned when other passengers on the plane stood up in protest at his forced removal, and the pilot refused to leave Sydney airport until the man was removed.

The man remains in detention at Villawood in Sydney and legal avenues are being pursued to appeal his deportation.
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  • Rev David Fernandes Tuesday, 03 February 2015 04:59 AM

    Funny way this present government calls "forced relocation routine transfers.. Inhuman to say the least.

    tanish Tuesday, 03 February 2015 06:25 AM

    These LTTE asylum seekers are tarnishing our name!!


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