Stansted Airport was forced to briefly close its runway earlier this week after a number of protesters from Lesbians and Gays Support Migrants surrounded a parked plane.
Activists said they were attempting to keep a “deportation flight,” which are used to remove failed asylum seekers, grounded at the Essex airport.
Following the incident, one of the protesters – Charlie Smoke – has shared his story with Attitude.
It’s been 50 years since homosexuality was decriminalised in the United Kingdom, but the British government still deems itself as fit to decide who is considered legal and illegal in our society; which LGBT people are granted the right to live, and those not afforded that privilege.
Instead of raiding our LGBT+ venues and harassing queer people on the streets, the government is now engaged in the mass deportation of migrants, many of whom are LGBT and in the UK seeking refuge. Officers might no longer be busting through the doors of underground bars, but instead they enter homes and communities, snatching people from their beds in the dead of night before forcing them into handcuffs.
Before long they’re throw into detention – the United Kingdom being the only country in Europe where this incarceration without trial has no time limit – before being thrown onto planes with no outside eyes to witness this brutal treatment.
That’s why on Tuesday night activists from Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants joined End Deportations and others to blockade a non-commercial runway at Stansted airport to stop a mass deportation charter flight to Nigeria and Ghana. It’s why I put myself on the line, my body on tarmac, to make a stand.
While the government loves to present itself with a friendly, pink and fluffy façade, espousing proud statements about gay rights, their attitude to LGBT+ people has changed very little since the law was change half a century ago. Last year an LGBT+ person who was deported on a charter flight to Ghana feared for his life because of what could happen upon his return. He was never heard from again, not even by his partner or friends in the UK. Is this what we call British values?
One of the people who was supposed to be on the flight last night is a lesbian woman who fled her abusive husband and arrived in the UK back in 1999. Now she’s being torn away from her wife and family after 18 years in this country, callously forced back to a country where she has no life, no money, and will undoubtedly face persecution.
This is just one example of countless number of desperate people who’ve fled to the United Kingdom to seek refuge in our seemingly LGBT+ friendly country. A country ruled by a government who claim to believe in human rights, to be filled with compassion, but then find themselves faced with accusations of lying about their LGBT+ identity, get harassed by the state and are summarily sent packing.
It’s an injustice that simply cannot go unchallenged, and this why LGSMigrants took action to stop the latest flight, doing all that we could to say no more.
As part of the LGBT+ community we have a duty to stand, shoulder to glittery shoulder with our siblings in communities targeted and attacked by this government. We have seen what it means to be considered illegal by the government and demonised by the media, and we will stand up to the treatment that LGBT+ asylum seekers face today, not standing by and allowing members of our community to be torn away and sentenced to death.
In 50 years a lot has changed, and at this year’s Pride as we march through the streets of London we will remember the activists and campaigners who fought and paved the way for us to enjoy the freedom we have today.
But we must also remember the atrocities that are occurring, out of sight and behind locked doors. We all have a responsibility to stand with them stop the deportation of LGBT+ people. That’s why we took to the Stansted runway on Tuesday night; because we had no other option.
Words: Charlie Smoke