London, Oct 9 (UNI) Britain's immigration policy faced serious trouble after a leading airline refused to carry failed asylum-seekers who were being forcibly removed from the country.
XL Airways, which has a fleet of 24 aircraft, said it was opposed to the policy because it had ''sympathy for all dispossessed people in the world.'' Last week, The Independent reported that hundreds of failed asylum-seekers claimed they suffered physical and racial abuse during the removal process at the hands of private security guards.
The British Government relies on airlines using chartered and scheduled aircraft to deport asylum-seekers who failed to win a right to live in the UK.
In an email to a campaign group which supports failed asylum seekers, XL said its chief executive had told the Government it had not ''fully understood'' the political dimensions of these flights. In February, one of its aircraft was used to deport 40 failed asylum-seekers to the Democratic Republic of Congo as part of the Government's ''operation castor.'' The airline has written to the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns confirming its decision to pull out of any further flights.
A spokesman for the airline said the Government had been informed of its decision. Other airlines are now expected to make their own objections public.
It has been estimated that the british Government pays out several million pounds each year. The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, Emma Ginn said, ''It's time airlines rethink what they are doing. Shareholders and customers will be horrified by the reality of what happens to deportees taken for these flights.'' A Home Office spokesman said the Borders and Immigration Agency only contracted with airlines willing to operate removal flights.
''The agency uses agents/brokers to arrange both charter and scheduled removals. Airline captains have the right to refuse carriage of a passenger and will do so if they feel appropriate for security or commercial reasons,'' he added.