Case Study: British Deportation Activists Hack Bus Advertisements

International Migrants Day: london Activists replace 200 Tube adverts with instructions on how to stop deportations

On Tuesday, December 18th 2018, refugee and migrant right campaigners “hacked” hundreds of adverts on the London Underground, replacing them with notices telling passengers how to disrupt attempted deportations on passenger airlines.

The ads read “See it, Say it, Stop it” in a re-appropriation of the British Transport Police's “See it, Say it, Sorted” campaign that encourages passengers to report any unusual items or activity, and feature illustrations of police forcefully keeping migrants on planes for deportation. They encouraged people to take action on commercial flights if they believe someone is being forcibly removed from the country.

Posters called on passengers to demand to talk to the pilot or to remain standing and refuse to sit down if a deportation is taking place.

More than 200 ads were replaced with the signs on the Piccadilly, Victoria and Central lines as part of the campaign by queer activist group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants) on Tuesday to mark International Migrants Day.

The adverts shoot down British Airways, the largest UK airliner responsible for carrying out multiple deportations on behalf of the government. One man, Jimmy Mubenga, who was being restrained by guards as he was being deported to Angola in 2010, died on the British Airways flight.

LGSMigrants volunteers were also out on the Heathrow Express, the underground line that takes passengers from across the city to Heathrow Airport, handing out leaflets and, the group said on Twitter, “reminding Christmas travellers that British Airways participate in the governments (sic) racist Hostile Environment”.

“Often when we are confronted with situations where we see vulnerable people falling victim to an abusive system we feel powerless to help,” Sam Björn from the group said. “We want to change that. We aim to build a movement to resist this brutal, racist practice of secretive deportations and the hostile environment as a whole. We hope to empower everyone to take a stand and refuse to sit in silence.”

Members of LGSMigrants were amongst a collective of activist groups who demonstrated against a charter deportation flight from Stansted Airport in March 2017. Some of them, known as the “Stansted 15”, were convicted on December 10 of endangering the safety of the airport.  The move shocked protest circles, human rights groups and migrant charities, with many criticising the lack of tolerance from authorities of the peaceful protest.

Recent months have seen a number of incidents on commercial airlines where passengers have rebelled against deportations being carried out.

In July, Swedish student Elin Ersson single-handedly stopped the deportation of an Afghan man on a flight from Gothenburg to Istanbul by refusing to sit down when ordered to do so by the pilot and airline crew. The 21-year-old won widespread and international acclaim for her actions, but was later told she would be charged by prosecutors with violating aviation law. A date for her trial has yet to be set. In October, holidaymakers on a flight from Heathrow to Istanbul staged a protest forcing authorities to halt the deportation of 29-year-old Somalian national Yaqub Ahmed. However, there was some political fallout after it came to light that Ahmed was being removed after being convicted of taking part in a gang rape in Northern London.

Virgin Atlantic, which had previously offered seats to detainees and accompanying security officers on its flights, said in June it would no longer assist the Home Office amid concerns over the wrongful deportations of Windrush citizens to the Caribbean. A charity helping people removed from the UK re-settle in Jamaica reported at the time that deportees had been regularly arriving on Virgin flights.

SEE IT  ASK at check-in if there is a deportation on your flight. WALK to the back of the plane, as this is usually where people being deported are sat.   SAY IT  TALK to the person who is being deported and ask if they want to take this flight. TALK to other passengers if the person doesn’t want to take the flight. TALK to the cabin crew and demand to speak to the pilot – once the doors have been closed, only the pilot can decide to disembark the person being deported.   STOP IT  STAND UP when the doors close and refuse to sit down.EXPLAIN why you are taking action to the other passengers - try to build solidarity. IGNORE any comments from police.

SEE IT ASK at check-in if there is a deportation on your flight. WALK to the back of the plane, as this is usually where people being deported are sat.

SAY IT TALK to the person who is being deported and ask if they want to take this flight. TALK to other passengers if the person doesn’t want to take the flight. TALK to the cabin crew and demand to speak to the pilot – once the doors have been closed, only the pilot can decide to disembark the person being deported.

STOP IT STAND UP when the doors close and refuse to sit down.EXPLAIN why you are taking action to the other passengers - try to build solidarity. IGNORE any comments from police.

The actions take part in the United Nations 2018 International Migrants Day, created by the United Nations. In 2018, close to 3,400 migrants and refugees already have lost their lives worldwide. That is why Migration with Dignity is the theme of 2018’s International Migrants Day.

“No one may be removed, expelled or extradited to a State where there is a serious risk that he or she would be subjected to the death penalty, torture or other inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”

— Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union. Art. 19.2:

The UN website declares that treating every migrant with dignity is one of fundamental requirements we face before anything else we attempt on migration. Migration is the great issue of our era, and a force for dignity because it allows people to choose to save themselves, letting them choose participation over isolation. “We must dignify those choices by paying them respect, and we respect them by treating those who make such choices with dignity. As we celebrate this day, our call is for migration to be safe, regular and dignified for all.”

UN Migrant Day 2018 Header Image.PNG

This article used information pulled from:

  1. https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/international-migrants-day-deportations-tube-adverts-lgbt-piccadilly-victoria-central-lines-a8689296.html

  2. http://www.lgsmigrants.com/

  3. https://www.dazeddigital.com/politics/article/42633/1/lgbt-migrant-group-hacks-tube-ads

Changelab Questions:

  • What tactics did LGS Migrants employ and do you find them to be effective? Are they expensive, cheap - easy, hard.

  • What are the advantages or downfalls of the tactics they used?

  • What is the connection between LGTBQ rights, and migrant rights? Why do you think this group decided to undertake these activities.

  • What connection did activists have with the media? What were the ultimate goals that they were hoping to achieve with their actions?

TO LEARN MORE, click group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants) or Migration with Dignity.