Gary Lineker, Akala, Tracey Emin and others urge airlines not to remove refugees to Rwanda

By the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants

Over 80 public figures have written to the airlines suspected to be carrying refugees to Rwanda next week, urging them not to fly the 100+ people whom the Home Office has targeted for removal.

Signatories include football pundit Gary Lineker OBE, the musician and author Akala, artist Tracey Emin, as well as a number of prominent musicians, activists, writers, journalists and lawyers. The letter has been sent to three airlines known to have previously worked with the Home Office on deportation flights – Titan Airways, Privilege Style and Iberojet. Air Tanker, who have previously carried out Home Office removal flights, have now ruled themselves out of participating in next week’s flights, following a public campaign by the charity Freedom from Torture.

The campaign saw members of the public send over 15,000 letters of protest to airlines suspected of involvement in the Rwanda scheme. A social media backlash saw several of the airlines delete posts from Instagram and LinkedIn due to negative comments, while Privilege Style blocked users from commenting on their Instagram posts.

The letter follows news that over one hundred people who have sought asylum in the UK, including people who have fled Syria, Sudan, Eritrea, Iran and Iraq, have been issued with removal notices for Rwanda, with some detainees scheduled to be removed on Tuesday 14th June.  

The letter urges airline chiefs to refuse to operate any flights on 14th June, the first Rwanda removal flight this year, and to withhold from carrying out any future removals to the East African nation.

Zoe Gardner, policy and advocacy manager for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants said:

“Most of us want to see people fleeing danger treated with care and compassion, regardless of what they look like or where they were born. Yet Priti Patel seems determined to treat certain refugees sadistically, brandishing her cruelty towards them as a way of scoring headlines and diverting attention away from her crumbling party.

No airline should be offering to aid and abet these racist and senseless plans, which we know will tear siblings apart, and put lives in danger. That’s why so many of us are coming together, and calling on airlines to refuse complicity in this government’s gross assault on human rights. We believe that people who’ve sought safety here should have their voices heard, their rights respected, and the chance to rebuild their lives alongside their families and communities here.”

Kolbassia Haoussou MBE, Director of Survivor Empowerment at Freedom from Torture, said:

“When I fled torture and persecution in central Africa, Britain gave me a chance to heal and rebuild my life, so it breaks my heart that this government is now trying to send survivors like me to a country known to practise torture.

“Make no mistake, any airline that collaborates with removing refugees to Rwanda will be forever tarred by their association with this cruel and dangerous policy – and likely in violation of the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. We urge these airlines to stand on the right side of history and rule themselves out of removal flights.”

The signatories are also calling on the UK government to withdraw from the agreement with Rwanda and cancel the flights planned for Tuesday 14th June. Instead, the letter’s signatories say the government should ‘ensure people who need sanctuary can safely rebuild their lives as part of our communities, regardless of their mode of arrival.

In the letter, the signatories declare that “we believe that everyone has the right to live a safe and dignified life… no matter what we look like, where we come from, or which borders we cross.” They express concern that people are being denied the chance to reunite with family members here and are being flown thousands of miles away from their support networks against their will.

Signatories also express alarm over the possibility that torture survivors and children may be removed to Rwanda on the flights.

News of the UK-Rwanda agreement, and upcoming removal flights emerged after Priti Patel’s Nationality and Borders Act passed earlier this year. The Act makes it easier for the government to detain, criminalise and remove people who have sought safety in the UK. 

The text of the letter and list of signatories are below:

We, the undersigned, write to express our solidarity with refugees currently facing deportation from the UK to Rwanda, some of whom are currently on hunger strike in Brook House Immigration Removal Centre. 

At least one hundred people who have travelled to the UK to seek safety are facing imminent deportation to Rwanda by the UK Government, with some flights leaving as soon as 14th June. The majority of refugees targeted are black and brown men from the global South. Many of them have survived torture and other gross human rights violations. Some of them may be children. Titan Airways, Privilege Style and Iberojet must distance themselves from these cruel plans to fly people against their will thousands of miles from their support networks, denying them the possibility of reuniting with their families or rebuilding flourishing lives in the UK.  

The UK-Rwanda deportation deal is re-traumatising, racist, and must be cancelled immediately.

We call on airlines Titan Airways, Privilege Style and Iberojet to refuse complicity with gross human rights violations, and withdraw from any involvement in deportations from the UK to Rwanda. 

And we call on the UK government to:

1. Withdraw from the deportation agreement with Rwanda and cancel the flights planned for 14th June

2. Ensure that people who need sanctuary can safely rebuild their lives as part of our communities, however they arrive here.

We believe that everyone has the right to live a safe and dignified life. We reiterate our commitment to working towards a world where that is a reality for all of us, no matter what we look like, where we come from, or which borders we cross.


Jolyon MaughamQC and campaigner
Robert SmithThe Cure
Rachel ShabiJournalist
Jas NijjarWorks on the politics and history of race and racism
Aviah Sarah DayOrganiser, writer and lecturer
Shanice McBeanActivist in Sisters Uncut. Author of Abolition Revolution
Yara Rodrigues FowlerWriter
AkalaMusician and author of Natives
Adam Elliott-CooperAcademic and author of Black Resistance to British Policing
Molly SmithCo-author of Revolting Prostitutes
Refik, HodzicJournalist, justice activist and transitional justice expert
Juno MacCo author of Revolting Prostitutes: The Fight For Sex Workers Rights
Robert MacfarlaneWriter, campaigner
Ali Smithwriter
Darian LeaderPsychoanalyst, writer
Jackie MorrisWriter, illustrator, campaigner with a passion for justice
Pat BarkerAuthor of The Silence of the Girls
JJ BolaWriter
Mohsin HamidWriter
Gracie Mae BradleyWriter and co-author of Against Borders
Farhana YaminClimate Lawyer & Activist,
Sophie MarpleFounding trustee, philanthropist, investor, campaigner
Rachel WhitereadArtist
Bella FreudFashion designer
Darren AlmondArtist
Gillian BurkeBiologist and wildlife presenter
Cindy FordeAuthor of ‘Bright New World’, Founder Planetari
Georgie HoptonArtist
Judy Ling WongHonorary President Black Envirnment Network
Antony GormleySculptor
Nora MeyerFilmmaker
Christo HirdDocumentary Producer
Dr Gail BradbrookCo-Founder of Extinction Rebellion
Alison OwenFilm and Tv producer
Tanika GuptaPlaywright/Screenwriter
Jessica HobbsDirector
Adjoa AndohActor
April De AngelisPlaywright
Akram KhanChoreographer and Dancer
Anthony BurySerial Entrepreneur and Philanthropist
Carol PotterEx CEO & now Board Director
Gary LinekerBroadcaster
Luke AikmanEntrepreneur, multiple exits (last one Nudge Digital >$10m). Current founder of Safe Workplace, valuation c $25m after 1 year of trading.
Jules PeckFounder Avon Mutual Bank
Felicity SilverthorneArctic Angels Coordinator and Social Media Manager
Akshata MehtaResearch Analyst, Global Choices
Toby JonesArtist
Arjun WaneyChairman
Jane HamlynDirector of Frith Street Gallery
Kathryn Elizabeth GrahamCampaigner
Frances CoppolaMonetary economist and author
Rachael EllisVolunteer
Quincy WhitakerBarrister, Doughty Street Chambers
Waad al-KateabWaad al-Kateab is a Syrian activist, the award-winning filmmaker of For Sama and Co-Founder of the Action For Sama campaign
Hamza al-KateabHamza al-Kateab is a Syrian doctor, activist and the Co-Founder of the Action For Sama campaign
Tracey EminArtist
Jonathon PorrittEnvironmentalist, Author, Campaigner
Phyllida BarlowArtist
Tacita DeanArtist
John BarkerDirector, Cambridge Governance Labs
Kaethe CherneyAuthor of Happy as Larry: A New York Story of Cults, Crushes and Quaaludes
Josie NaughtonFounder of Choose Love
Sonya SceatsDirector of Freedom From Torture
Ilyas NagdeeCo-author of Race to the Bottom
Luke de NoronhaWriter and academic at Sarah Parker Remond Centre, UCL
Minnie RahmanCampaigner
Lola OlufemiWriter
Suhaiymah Manzoor-KhanPoet, activist and author of Tangled in Terror: Uprooting Islamophobia
Daniel TrillingJournalist and author
Maya GoodfellowAuthor of Hostile Environment: How Immigrants Became Scapegoats
Kojo Koramauthor of Uncommon Wealth and co-author of Empire’s Endgame
Sivamohan ValluvanAuthor of Clamour of Nationalism
Fahad AnsariDirector, Riverway Law
Leah CowanWriter of Border Nation: A Story of Migration
Dalia GebrialWriter and academic
Micha Frazer-CarrollWriter and journalist
Max PorterWriter
Rizwaan SabirLecturer in Criminology, Liverpool John Moores University
Preti TanejaWriter, Professor of World Literature and Creative Writing, Newcastle University
Fatima RajinaAcademic

A decade of resistance – Join JCWI to mark 10 years of the Hostile Environment

This year marks 10 years since politicians announced plans to create a Hostile Environment against migrants and refugees – rules and policies that criminalise, marginalise and deny justice and dignity to migrant and racialised communities in Britain.

Join JCWI on Sunday 19th June to commemorate a decade of struggle and community resilience, and to connect and learn key skills for the struggle going forward. There will be interactive workshops, arts and crafts stations, activities for kids and families, music, dancing, and space to reflect and plan for how we continue to organise together in our communities, to build the movement for migrant justice, and to win!


– Anti-Raids, Housing and Know Your Rights Workshops

– Food generously provided by Refugee Community Kitchen and Cooperation Town

– Music, dancing and more

– Kids’ and crafts tents

The event is completely free to attend. You don’t have to sign up to be able to come – it just helps to know how many people to expect!

I’ll see you there!

Image: c/o Mike Phipps

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