LGBT activists pressure Pride sponsor British Airways to end ‘brutal’ migrant deportations

Campaign group Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants has called on British Airways, which will sponsor next month’s Brighton Pride, to end the deportation of asylum seekers from the UK, following Virgin Atlantic’s pledge to end “all involuntary” removals.

Speaking to PinkNews, Sam Bjorn, a spokesperson from Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants), explained that, in light of Virgin’s announcement, the activist group would lobby other flight companies to do the same.

“Now, we will turn our attention to other airlines that are still involved in transporting deportees, and ask them to pledge to end deportations on their flights,” Bjorn said.

“In particular, we are calling on British Airways to make this decision immediately. As a sponsor of Brighton Pride, we know that British Airways want to position their brand as a leading LGBTQIA+ employer, benefactor and ally.

“But they have no place at Brighton Pride as a company that profits off deportations of migrants. We demand that they refuse to remain complicit in the systematic deportation of migrants, including many who are LGBTQIA+, with immediate effect.”

BRIGHTON, ENGLAND - AUGUST 06: The rainbow flag is carried through the streets at the Brighton Pride Parade on August 6, 2016 in Brighton, England. (Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images)

British Airways sponsors Brighton Pride. (Getty)

Virgin Atlantic recently announced it would stop the removal of migrants, following pressure from LGSMigrants.

A Virgin Atlantic spokesperson told PinkNews: “We’ve made the decision to end all involuntary deportations on our network, and have already informed the Home Office. We believe this decision is in the best interest of our customers and people.”

However, PinkNews understands that the flight company had made this decision prior to lobbying from the activist group.

Data released by the Home Office in November 2017, described by the department as “experimental,” revealed that nearly three-quarters (74 percent) of asylum claims made at least partly on the basis of sexual orientation were rejected.

These statistics showed that a total of 3,535 asylum applications were made between July 1, 2015 and March 31, 2017, with sexual orientation being at least one reason for these claims.

“Deportations are incredibly brutal,” Bjorn said. “People are being sent out of the UK against their will, and often face persecution and poverty as a result, living in unsafe and dangerous conditions or in countries they have little or no connection to.”

Virgin Atlantic recently announced it would end “all involuntary deportations.” (Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants)

PinkNews has contacted British Airways and Brighton Pride for comment.

Airlines are required to comply with UK deportation law – and assist the Home Office with removals if requested – under the 1971 Immigration Act.

Commenting on Virgin’s decision, a Home Office spokesperson told PinkNews: “We do not comment on operational matters.”