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The second failed attempt by the Home Office to deport Kemi, Taiwo and Yasim on tuesday gained some press attention. However the somewhat suspect claim by Virgin Nigeria Airlines’ Director of Corporate Communications Larry Agose (pictured) has taken centre stage for foiling the forced removal.

Larry said that:

We were approached to carry Kemi Ayinde who is billed for deportation from the UK on our flight, but we declined. We also do not intend to carry her on any of our subsequent flights.

Reporters from the Mirror, WalesOnline, & South Wales Echo all put the fact that the family was wasn’t deported down to the Virgin Nigeria refusing the Home Office. Breaking News Kenya has repeated the story and there has been discussion on the Mirror forum on the issue.  Other media souces BBConline and News Wales weren’t so sure, and have concentrated on the Judical Review that came into place some time before Larry’s statement. The whole thing appears to have really annoyed the racists on Stormfront, a sign to everyone that we’re doing something right!

Of course we couldn’t be happier that Virgin Nigeria has commited not to deport Kemi at any time in the future. And though we are somewhat cynical that they had originally refused to do the Home Office’s dirty work (especially given the evidence to the contrary, see previous posts), we’re willing to give them the benefit of the doubt. We hope that Virgin Nigeria’s heroic stand against the deportation of Kemi is followed up by the refusal to deport ANY failed asylum seekers by the whole Virgin group. 

Meanwhile the campaign has also now got the support of Jill Evans MEP, who has written to the home secretary to reconsider Kemi’s case and has said :

I fully support the campaign of No Borders Wales to allow Ms Ayinde and her family to return to Cardiff.

source: NewsWales

The frantic replies being fired off by Virgin Nigeria to the many supporters of Kemi Ayinde contained what looks like a particularly strong claim. Stella Allen, a Customer Relations Executive at the company stated:

It is pertinent to mention that we do not tolerate the inhumane treatment of any person onboard any of our flights as we ensure that all our passengers are treated with dignity and respect firmly recognizing that Asylum Seekers are not criminals but law abiding persons found to have no right or entitlement to remain in that particular country. Furthermore, Virgin Nigeria does not make any special profit from these operations and has never operated a removal flight before. We only carry passengers booked on our reservation systems.

According to this statement Virgin Nigeria has never carried out a deportation (removal) of an asylum seeker before. The language, unlike the rest of the document, is pretty clear here. Well, how then do you explain flying Jumoke Adediwura and her daughters Elixabeth and Daniella (who’d been living in Birmingham) out to Lagos on Flight VK296 on Tuesday March 6th? Seems like operating a removal flight to us. And what about Ronke Falode and her children who were shipped out of the UK on flight VK292 on Jan 2nd this year? Then there’s the Akwade family who were flown out by Virgin Nigeria on 30th December? Either Virgin Nigeria employees suffer from some kind of strange amnesia or they’re telling us porkie pies. But maybe Stella Allen’s new to the job. Maybe since she’s taken over as Customer Relations executive, Virgin Nigeria really haven’t carried out any deportations?

If this is indeed the case then how do you explain the fact that Bridget O’Kora and daughter Osaivibie who were due to be flown on a Virgin Nigeria flight out of Gatwick only three days before Kemi and family? Bridget and Osaivibie weren’t actually deported, possibly because of a similar wave of letters, calls and e-mails thrown at Virgin Nigeria by their friends and supporters. Many of these campaigners were sent a remarkably familiar e-mail by the very same Stella Allen at Virgin Nigeria:

It is pertinent to mention that we do not tolerate the inhumane treatment of any person onboard any of our flights as we ensure that all our passengers are treated with dignity and respect firmly recognizing that Asylum Seekers are not criminals but law abiding persons found to have no right or entitlement to remain in that particular country. Furthermore, Virgin Nigeria does not make any special profit from these operations and has never operated a removal flight before. We only carry passengers booked on our reservation systems.

Hmmm. Now, either Stella’s very forgetful, very very forgetful, or she’s deliberately trying to pull the wool over our eyes. We could, of course, list more examples. But you get the point. Draw your own conclusions. And Stella, empty your desk.

As the fantasitic news was revealed that Asylum seeker Kemi Ayinde and her family were not deported today, reports also began trickling out to her supporters of Virgin Nigeria’s distinctly strange about-face on the matter.

At the end of last week, and until late yesterday, Virgin Nigeria’s PR department were working overtime e-mailing Kemi’s supporters assuring them it would be in non-compliance with the UK government if it refused to take an asylum seeker out of the country when asked. In other words, they had no choice to deport this sick pregnant woman and her family.

By late Monday afternoon, however, Virgin Nigeria and Virgin Unite (the fluffy charitable face of Richard Branson’s empire) were claiming that not only were they not going to deport Kemi, Taiwa and Yasim, but they’d never intended to fly them out in the first place.

This is part of the letter that many of Kemi’s supporters received from Virgin Nigeria’s ‘Customer Relations Executive’ Stella Allen:

We empathize with Kemi Ayinde and the circumstances surrounding her migration to the United Kingdom, as recounted by your goodself, and her subsequent pending deportation there from. We have noted the suggestion proffered by your goodself regarding the manner in which VNA conducts itself in this matter and we believe same to be tantamount to non-cooperation with the Government which is inimical to the interests of all concerned parties.

We know of at least 10 variants of this e-mail, and she was sending these out until late afternoon on Monday 7th July. The language is a bit wordy, but the implication is clear. Virgin Nigeria would carry out the removal because it didn’t want to turn down the Home Office’s request.

Later that day people started to receive e-mails from Jodi Watson who is a ‘Business Mobilisation Manager’ at Virgin Unite (the ‘independent’ charitable arm of the Virgin Group). They all contained texts along these lines:

I just wanted to clarify that Kemi will not be deported tomorrow on a Virgin Nigeria flight. Virgin Nigeria was approached but refused to carry her both now or in the future. It seems the story was printed without consulting Virgin Unite or Virgin Nigeria so we were not able to set the record straight.

Some campaigners also got the added bonus of having an e-mail written by Larry Agose, Virgin Nigeria’s Director of Corporate Commmunications, pasted into their reply. He claimed:

I confirm that we were approached to carry her on our flight for tomorrow, but we declined. We also do not intend to carry her on any of our subsequent flights.

So what’s going on here? Kemi’s removal directions told her she was about to be flown out of the UK on Tuesday 8th July at 10.15am on Virgin Nigeria flight VK292 from Gatwick North Terminal. There are a number of possible explanations to this mystery, but none of them leave Virgin Nigeria or the Home Office looking particularly good.

Another plane leaves without unwilling passengers

Another plane leaves without unwilling passengers

The removal of Kemi, Taiwo and Yasim was cancelled for today. The family were due to be removed on this morning at 10.15am on Virgin Nigeria flight VK292 from Gatwick North Terminal.

They are now in Yarl’s Wood detention prison, and their legal team has started the process of setting up a High Court judicial review. While this review is in process it makes it more difficult for the Home Office to remove them from the UK, making the family’s position slightly less precarious than it has been until now.

Kemi is heavily pregnant, and has recently encountered complications which make it difficult for her to stand without assistance. They were due to be flown back to Nigeria on a BA flight last week but, after a barrage of calls, faxes, and e-mails from friends and supporters, the family was taken off the aeroplane at the last minute and returned to detention. Now they have had another last-minute reprieve, and hopes are high that a convincing case can be made to allow them to return to Cardiff.

There is now a campaign page for sanctuary for Kemi, Taiwo and Yasim all campaign updates will appear on this page, please forward the link to anyone who would be willing to support the family.

Since No Borders South Wales launched the campaign to keep Kemi, Taiwo and Yasim safe in Cardiff last week, there has been considerable media interest in the case. The BBC carried information across it’s network, including radio and online. The South Wales Echo has carried stories of the averted deportation and planned removal this tuesday. Media Wales stablemate the Wales on Sunday ran an interview with Kemi and Taiwo which is well worth a read. And News Wales also recently carried a story about the growing political support for Kemi, this time focussing on Plaid Cymru MEP Gill Evans. The campaign has also gained the support of Cardiff CouncilNCADCthe F-Word, and more.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

1) Please contact Virgin Nigeria to raise your concerns that Kemi isn’t fit to fly and she and her family will be at risk if deported. Use this model letter please amend/change re-write as you see fit but please remember to quote Kemi Ayinde, flight VK292, 10.15am, 08.07.08.

2) Please send urgent faxes/Emails immediately to, Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith, Secretary of State for the Home Office: You can use this model letter please amend/change re-write as you see fit but please remember to include the HO Ref S1387236.

3) Contact Stop the Traffik and Virgin Unite to highlight how Virgin’s role in Kemi and family’s up coming deportation  directly contradicts their support of victims of trafficking.

It has been found that the Virgin Group (51% owners of Virgin Atlantic Airways Ltd, which owns 49% of Virgin Nigeria Airways), through its charitable foundation Virgin Unite has direct links with anti-trafficking charity Stop the Traffik who pledge to “protect the victims of trafficking”. Virgin Unite states “Virgin Unite is fully behind Stop The Traffik to end slavery once and for all”.

Virgin’s role in the up coming deportation of Kemi, Taiwo and Yasim (more details here) directly contradicts their work with Stop The Traffik. It is fundamentally hypocritical of the Virgin Group to support a charity that is there to defend and support victims of trafficking, while at the same time potentially playing such a key role in sending a direct victim of trafficking back to a country where she faces the very real prospect of retribution. The fact that Kemi was trafficked is not disputed by the Home Office. In its letter of refusal it stated that “your account that you have been trafficked to the UK has been accepted”. We encourage everyone to complain to the airline about this injustice and its contradictory practices.

WHAT YOU CAN DO TO HELP

Contact Stop the Traffik and Virgin Unite to highlight how Virgin’s role in Kemi and family’s up coming deportation directly contradicts their support of victims of trafficking.

They are scheduled to be deported on Tuesday 8th July at 10.15am on Virgin Nigeria flight VK292 from Gatwick North Terminal.

British Airways refused to take Kemi only a couple of days ago due to health problems.

What you can do to help

1) Please Read the rest of this entry »

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