Qantas shareholders push again for airline to refuse involvement in deportations

Qantas is under renewed pressure over the forced deportation of asylum seekers, with an American investment firm joining a proposed shareholder resolution calling on the airline to review its policy and processes.

The Australasian Centre for Corporate Responsibility has teamed up with US–based asset manager Mercy Investment Services to co–file a motion urging the airline to examine its involvement in deportations. The organisation wants Qantas to justify how deportations square with its commitment to the United Nations guiding principles of business and human rights.

Qantas shareholders will consider the motion at the airline’s upcoming annual general meeting in late October.

At present, the airline transports people at the request of the home affairs department but critics say many refused refugees have not been properly assessed, in what could be a violation of international law.

Qantas has consistently stated it would not refuse deportations.

“It is not the role of airlines to adjudicate on complex immigration decisions, particularly as information used in determination processes is not publicly available. To do so would undermine the government, the judicial system and their processes,” Qantas says.

Supporters of a Tamil asylum seeker family, facing imminent deportation after 17 months in detention since being arrested at their home in Biloela, Queensland, have called on the Australian airline industry to show some “moral leadership”.

“We are calling on the whole aviation industry – from those responsible for the management of the airlines, down to the pilots, ground crew and cabin crew, to show moral leadership and refuse to fly Nades, Priya, Kopika and Tharunicaa from Australia to an uncertain fate in Sri Lanka,” a Home to Biloela campaign spokeswoman said.

READ  Swedish defence firm Saab's CEO to step down

The family lost a bid to take their case to the high court in May. The parents, Nades and Priya, arrived separately in Australia in 2012 and 2013 respectively, by boat, and sought asylum. The couple married and had two daughters, now aged four and two.

“This family do not consent to their removal; they have grave fears about their future if they are forced back to Sri Lanka. An act of courageous leadership would be for airlines to commit to only flying this family home to safety in Biloela,” the spokeswoman said.

Tamil asylum seekers husband and wife Nadesalingam and Priya and their daughters Dharuniga and Kopig

Tamil asylum seekers husband and wife Nadesalingam and Priya and their Australian–born daughters, nine–month-old Dharuniga and two–year–old Kopig, who were taken into immigration detention after a dawn raid in 2018.

Protesters rallied in Melbourne over the weekend in support of the family remaining in Australia.


URGENT: Officials have blocked assessment of 2yo Tharunicaa’s need for protection, putting this family at imminent risk of deportation. Please, can you tap and call your MP for this family now? #hometoBilo #Biloela

August 21, 2019

Craig Foster

Please get out and raise your voice for this family. Difficult to believe that we can treat a family, kids in this way. Where’s the Mayor, Local Council at on this today? Local officials and elected leaders The community spoke #hometobilo

August 22, 2019

The Human Rights Law Centre spokeswoman Keren Adams said Qantas isn’t legally obliged to carry out forced deportations and transfers on behalf of the Australian government.

“Airlines have the power to ask Home Affairs for more information about a person being deported before they agree to fly them anywhere,” Adams said.

The National Justice Project managing director, George Newhouse, said people are being pressured to return to countries where they are at serious risk of harm and human rights violations.

“I know of several people who were killed after they returned. While the government may categorise these as voluntary removals, the coercion involved raises serious questions under international law,” Newhouse said.

Refugee Advice and Casework Service noted an increase in deportation activity.

“It is more important than ever that corporations such as Qantas take the lead on human rights and put an end to complicity,” the RACS director Sarah Dale said.

Internationally, other airlines have refused to deport refugees or immigrants on government orders.

In the UK, Virgin Atlantic has refused to deport immigrants after a spate of wrongful removals known as the Windrush scandal.

Last year six US airlines including United, Delta and American Airlines announced their refusal to participate in transporting children separated from their families at US borders as a result of Trump administration policies.

In Germany, pilots for Lufthansa have also refused to deport unwilling asylum seekers due to a range of reasons, with government figures claiming 222 deportations failed last year due to pilots refusing to take off.

In Australia, Virgin Australia also facilitates forced deportations.

Last year, nine finalists for an annual women of influence award that is sponsored by Qantas, including the former Human Rights Commission president Gillian Triggs, wrote a joint letter of protest to the airline asking it to stop deporting asylum seekers.

Qantas declined to comment on the shareholder resolution but noted ACCR’s resolution at last year’s annual general meeting only attracted support from 6.43% of shareholders.


Leave a Reply

This website uses cookies. By continuing to use this site, you accept our use of cookies.