A GROUP of 11 passengers who forced a two-and-a-half-hour delay of a flight between Barcelona and Dakar by protesting the deportation of a Senegalese man on-board, were taken off the plane and are now considering legal action.
There were 172 passengers scheduled to depart on low-cost airline Vueling’s flight VY7888 from Barcelona–El Prat Airportto Leopold Sedar Senghor International Airport last Saturday.
But a handcuffed Senegalese man was seated at the back of the plane accompanied by two border guards.
The Senegalese national was reportedly stopped earlier at passport control at Barcelona El Prat airport.
He was refused entry to Spain once it was discovered that he had no visa, work permit or any other documents enabling him to stay.
‘I don’t want to go back, I am ill,’ shouted the deportee, according to the Spanish press.
A commotion ensued, with several passengers leaving their seats and enquiring about the man. Their enquiries morphed into an impromptu protest…
‘Many people are standing up to stop this flight of shame,’ a protester posted to social media at the time.
With the plane unable to depart while passengers refused to take their seats, several of the other passengers began to challenge the protesters, before police arrived ordering all the passengers to disembark.
A Spanish journalist, Anna Palou, tweeted a video clip showing the protest on the budget airline jet.
The clip showed several passengers blocking the aisle and bore the message in Catalan: ‘We have succeeded! Flight of deportation stopped. Now the authorities are coming to take the person away! Solidarity is our best weapon!’
But in fact, the opposite was happening.
A repeat boarding was announced, with everyone, including the Senegalese man being boarded, apart from the eleven passengers who started the protest.
The plane departed, causing a 150-minute delay in one direction and an overnight delay on the return flight, forcing the company to provide food vouchers and hotel accommodation for affected passengers.
On Monday, the 11 protesters held a press conference in Barcelona demanding an ‘explanation’ for their treatment and accusing the airline of violating the human rights of the deportee.
‘At the moment, legal routes are being studied and we are looking at how to proceed against Vueling. So far, no company official has contacted these people,’ said Andres Garcia Berrio, their legal counsel, who is known for his pro-migrant legal campaigns.
Berrio claimed that the 11 face fines of between €45,000 and €90,000.
Vueling, headquartered in Barcelona, responded by saying that the passengers face no fines, are not blacklisted, can buy new tickets to Dakar and are entitled to file a complaint demanding compensation for being taken off the plane if they so wish.