Qantas and Virgin airlines are being criticised for their role in the deportation of asylum seekers—back to the very conflict zones they fled. Although the carriers have faced tense protests from unions, advocacy groups, and the general public, they have refused to cease their role in the forced deportations.
A spokesman for Qantas told The Age, “The government and courts are best placed to make decisions on the legal immigration status of individuals seeking to remain in Australia, not airlines.”
Activists renewed their efforts, specifically on the corporate role of the forced evacuation of refugees when a Swedish student, Elin Ersson, refused to take her seat on a plane at Gothenburg airport after witnessing an Afghan man being deported “to hell.”
According to The Guardian, similar protests that have been staged on board airlines in Australia have resulted in criminal charges against protestors. Activists in Australia have redirected their efforts, from onboard protests, to the canvassing of shareholders.
In 2016, a 22-year-old protestor was found guilty of “interfering with a crew member” after she refused to leave the Qantas flight that was deporting a 25-year-old Tamil asylum seeker back to Sri Lanka.
The Age has reported that The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility (ACCR) is asking Qantas shareholders to co-sign a resolution that will be presented at their general meeting later in the year. The presentation will detail the risks presented by the airlines involvement in the deportations and strategies to manage the risks.
In line with the United Nations guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, the ACCR argues that airlines should not be taking part in deportations where asylum seekers may face danger. The majority of the deportations are to Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, and Vietnam, countries that have a history of persecuting minorities.
Prominent businesswoman, Janet Holmes à Court told The Age, “Any business that is concerned with protecting its brand should not be implementing the refugee policies of the Australian government."
In the US, United Airlines and American Airlines have both refused to transport migrant children who have been separated from their families while being detained by immigration authorities.
According to Crikey, protests will be taking place at the offices of both airlines today.