The Stansted 15 and a life transformed
Date posted: 12 February 2021
Our Rebecca Morris tells the story of one client whose life was transformed when her removal flight was stopped by protesters.
On Tuesday March 28 2017, a day that was otherwise unremarkable, a flight chartered by the UK Home Office was supposed to be taking various men and women from the UK to Ghana, Nigeria and Sierra Leone.
My client was intended for that flight. She had been detained, without warning, when she had gone to report to the Home Office the week before.
She was told she would be being returned to Nigeria; her native country, yes, but also the country from which, 20 years previously, she had been groomed and then trafficked as a young teenager for sexual exploitation across Europe.
My client had experienced significant mental health issues, had been hospitalised on at least three occasions, and had no family or support in Nigeria. The judgement of the Upper Tribunal in HD (Trafficked women) (CG)  UKUT 454 suggested that there was every likelihood she would be trafficked and exploited again if she was made to leave the UK. The Home Office was aware of this when it refused her fresh claim in September 2016, when it planned her detention in January 2017, and when it arranged her removal in that March.
At some point, however, on the night of 28 March 2017 a group of individuals known as the Stansted 15 cut through the perimeter fence at Stansted Airport and chained themselves to the plane. Their actions prevented the flight’s departure. And they were charged with serious terrorist offences.
One week later, I met my client at a legal advice surgery at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. I took on her case. We assisted her to make a fresh asylum claim arguing why she qualified as a refugee and was entitled to international protection.
Some two years later, in February 2019, the Home Office accepted that our client was at risk of persecution if returned to Nigeria and she was granted refugee status.
And almost two years on from then, on Friday 29 January 2021 in a long-awaited appeal judgement, the Stansted 15 achieved their own justice; having been convicted of terrorism-related offences in December 2019, their convictions were over-turned.
The Lord Chief Justice, Lord Burnett of Maldon, said:
“The appellants should not have been prosecuted for the extremely serious offence under section 1(2)(b) of the 1990 Act because their conduct did not satisfy the various elements of the offence. There was, in truth, no case to answer.”
The Home Office claim that “We only ever return those who we and, where applicable, the courts are satisfied do not need our protection and have no legal basis to remain in the UK.”
What our client’s case shows, and what the Stansted 15 were protesting against, is that there are too many people in immigration detention who are removed from the country when they have strong grounds for remaining here. The system needs reforming to ensure their voices are heard.