Victory for campaigners after airline pulls out of UK’s Rwanda expulsion scheme

The Spanish-based charter airline Privilege Style has pulled out of the highly controversial government scheme to expel asylum seekers to Rwanda, after mounting pressure from campaigners. SRT grantee Freedom from Torture had been leading the campaigns under the hashtag #StopTheFlights. Their efforts included targeting Privilege Style outside a Real Madrid v Barcelona football match in Madrid, where both teams are customers of the airline, with banners reading: “Don’t fly with Privilege Style while they profit from refugees’ pain.” They also presented the firm with “worst airline of the year” award at the carrier’s headquarters in Palma in front of the media.

The airline hired by the UK government had become known as the UK’s “airline of last resort” for its willingness to conduct the flights that others refused. But in a statement to Freedom for Torture, Privilege Style has now said that “it will not operate flights to Rwanda in the future.” It added that “it has never flown to Rwanda since the one flight scheduled for June 2022 … was suspended.”

Kolbassia Haoussou, a torture survivor and a director at Freedom from Torture, said: “This is a victory for people power… Privilege Style’s decision to no longer fly torture survivors to Rwanda sends a message to the aviation industry: if you try and cash in on the pain of refugees, you will be held to account.”

The UKs £120 million deal with Rwanda, while still currently on the political agenda, continues to receive heavy criticism. Thousands of British people have protested against the cruelty of expelling survivors of torture and persecution without even considering their asylum claims. The entire leadership of the Church of England has condemned the scheme. The UN also says that the scheme violates the Refugee Convention.

Freedom from Torture is a UK-based organisation dedicated to healing and protecting people who have survived torture. It provides therapies to improve physical and mental health, medically documents torture, and provides legal and welfare help. It also exposes torture globally, fights to hold torturing states to account and campaigns for fairer treatment of torture survivors in the UK.

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