Swissair to meet authorities to discuss forced repatriations

Switzerland’s national airline Swissair said Thursday it will meet representatives from the federal, cantonal and regional authorities to discuss its refusal to participate in forced repatriations of asylum seekers by the justice and police authorities.

This content was published on September 30, 1999 - 14:43

Switzerland’s national airline Swissair said Thursday it will meet representatives from the federal, cantonal and regional authorities to discuss its refusal to participate in forced repatriations of asylum seekers by the justice and police authorities.

The decision – which does not affect voluntary returnees -- was taken after more and more Swissair pilots refused to take such passengers aboard, in light of a series of repatriations that caught the attention of the media.

The most spectacular case occurred on May 9, when an African man was put aboard Swissair Flight 276 to Kinshasa, the capital of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

The man was accompanied and guarded by three policemen. He then started protesting loudly against the deportation, which led police to gag the man.

During a stopover in Cameroon, according to Swiss police, about two dozen passengers then got involved and a scuffle with the policemen erupted. In light of the increasingly tense situation, the repatriation was abandoned and the man was returned to Switzerland.

Swissair said that such incidents were unacceptable for the airline, the crews and passengers, not least because such deportations posed a security risk.

Since that incident, the airline has refused to participate in the forced repatriations.

A high-ranking government official told Switzerland’s Neue Zurcher Zeitung newspaper that the authorities were considering repatriations with other airlines or with charter flights.

From staff and wire reports.

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