28 April, 2019

Washington airport fights against US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency - ICE. deportation flights

Photo Alex Montalvo and Wadii Boughdir for UWCHR
Officials at Boeing Field are trying hard to stop their airport being the departure point for controversial deportation flights for the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency - ICE.  

These flights, operated by private contractors - including Swift Air and World Atlantic have long been flying from Boeing Field, or to be more accurate, King County International Airport as the airfield is officially known. They started back in 2010 and since then some 466 flights have deported around as many as 34,400 people. 

According to new research, some of these flights have not treated the passengers at all well, indeed there are many reported cases of inhumane, humiliating and abusive treatment. Allegedly one such flight saw 90 Somali being handcuffed down, on an aircraft for nearly 48 hours, including being stuck on the tarmac in Senegal for some time, where it is reported some were assaulted, beaten and others not allowed to use the toilets.

It is treatment like this that the officials in King County, which own the airport, have objected to and are actively trying to prevent.  Rachel Smith, King County’s deputy executive, told The UK's  Independent site, "We are a community that is open to all, - We absolutely think that the community is behind us on this."

Stopping the deportation flights isn't as easy as just saying 'stop', King County International Airport was built and owned by the federal government at first and when the ownership was transferred to King County just after the second world war, it was done so with one major condition - the US government retained the right to use it when and how they wanted. 

ICE is not obliged to provide flight manifests to local officials, they can do what they want. However, the executive order signed last week by King County revises all leases with most of the airport's contractors and operators which provide services including, refuelling, cleaning and aircraft handling. The new leases, according to Rachel Smith prohibit those operators from providing services to deportation flights.

Only time will tell if these efforts stop the controversial deportation flights from operating out of Boeing Field or if Trump's federal government will find a way to continue the operations to return 'illegal aliens' to their country of birth.  

For more details please see Hidden in Plain Sight from the Centre of Human Rights at the University of Washington.

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