Cabin crew to refuse to cooperate with forcible deportations


The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) a global union organisation representing 400,000 aviation workers has called upon its members to refuse co-operation with inhuman methods of forcible deportation.

The ITF plea follows the death of a Nigerian national Semira Adamu at the hands of the Belgian authorities on board a Sabena aircraft during the process of her deportation from Belgium on Tuesday 22 September.

In response to increasing concern among civil aviation trade unions about unacceptable or degrading forms of treatment used against refugees and deportees on board aircraft, airline staff have also been asked by the ITF to report any incidents concerning refugees or deportees to the Federation.

"In recent years a number of governments have passed carrier liability laws which fine airlines for carrying refugees, and involve airline staff as an auxiliary police force aimed at preventing refugees from being able to exercise their right to lodge a claim for political asylum," explained Stuart Howard, ITF Civil Aviation Section Secretary

"Crew have witnessed deportees shackled in chains, bound with tape, and drugged. They have been asked to assist police to administer sedatives to deportees without their knowledge or permission. We have now witnessed the death of a deportee on board an aircraft."

Writing to Louis Tobback, Belgian Minister of the Interior, the ITF called for a review of Belgian laws and police practices to ensure they conform to international rights of refugees as set out in UN Convention 51 on the Status of Refugees.

The Federation insisted that the international rights of asylum seekers must be fully respected, and that degrading treatment or excessive force should never be used.

"Civil air transport should not be used for such police operations and civil aviation staff should not be required to take part in any auxiliary immigration policing duties," said Howard.


Notes for editors:

20 year-old Semira Adamu died on board a Sabena flight, waiting to fly to Lagos, at the hands of her Belgian police escort. Crew and passengers were on board the aircraft at the time. Semira Adamu had sought asylum in Belgium after fleeing from Nigeria to escape an arranged marriage to a 68 year old man. The authorities rejected her asylum claim and enforced her deportation. On 22 September she was placed on board a Sabena flight with a police escort. When other passengers began to board the aircraft she began to scream. Her police escort held a cushion over her face for 15 minutes resulting in her death. In using the cushion the police were following the specific instructions provided to them by the Belgian authorities for dealing with this kind of situation.

Belgian civil aviation unions protested against the death of Semira Adamu with a one minute silence, observed throughout the Zaventem international airport by employees and public on 1st October. They are continuing to co-ordinate protest actions with Belgian refugee organisations.

The International Transport Workers Federation (ITF) is a federation of 480 transport workers trade unions in 130 countries, representing more than five million workers.

International Transport Workers Federation, 49-60 Borough Road, London SE1 1DS

Tel: (+44 171) 403 2733, fax: (+44 171) 357 7871,, website: