Last week, fifteen individuals were convicted on terrorism-related charges for preventing the departure of a charter flight loaded with scores of people due for deportation.
The group, known as the Stansted 15 are now facing life imprisonment, for breaking the Aviation and Maritime Security Act. Two of them are my constituents.
This piece of legislation, brought in after the Lockerbie bombing in 1988, was designed to update and enhance protections for airports and ports following this tragic attack.
Yet it is being used in this context to prosecute peaceful protesters. Indeed, this will be the first time it has been used to against non-violent activists.
The motives of the Stansted 15 were well-publicised and grounded in a strong moral case: to ensure that those passengers faced with deportation had their right of access to justice protected- the chance to complete the process for applying for asylum, which crucially must include the opportunity for appeal.
A number of passengers had their immigration cases overturned at appeal as a result of this flight being grounded.
Access to justice should not depend on actions taken by human rights defenders. Equally, such activists should not be facing the prospect of life imprisonment under legislation designed to tackle terrorism.
The legacy of this Government’s handling of Windrush; the Supreme Court judgement ruling the Home Office acted unlawfully over its “deport first, appeal later” policy and the fact that over 40% of immigration cases are overturned at appeal all show that Theresa May’s ‘Hostile Environment’ policy is very much alive.
Catherine West MP
MP for Hornsey & Wood Green