An Afghan asylum seeker’s deportation was prevented on Tuesday after the pilot of the plane on which he was supposed to be removed reportedly refused to take off.
Samim Bigzad, 22, had been booked on a Turkish Airlines flight after his application for asylum failed. A petition to delay his deportation had attracted 3,000 signatures.
Campaigners went to Heathrow Airport to tell passengers about Mr Bigzad’s situation, asking them to raise it with airline staff if they felt comfortable doing so.
Mr Bigzad was reportedly hysterical as he was escorted on to the flight, claiming he could be beheaded by the Taliban.
Kavel Rafeferty, a British woman who had been hosting Mr Bigzad in Kent, later received a message from him saying he had returned to a detention centre in the UK after “the pilot said no”, the Independent reported.
“The last message I’d had from him was so sad – it just said ‘they’ve come to take me’ and then the phone was switched off,” said Ms Rafferty.
“But then he rang that night and told me ‘the pilot said no’. He was happy and relieved and shocked – it was a lot to go through in one day.
“We don’t know the name of the pilot but there are so many people who would like to thank him.”
In a highly unusual move, the Turkish Airlines pilot reportedly came out of the plane and said “you’re not going to take him, I’m not flying. Someone’s life is at risk.”
Under European Aviation Safety Agency regulations, pilots are responsible for the “safety of the aircraft and of all crew members, passengers and cargo on board”, giving them authority over the passengers on board an aircraft when it takes off.
The Afghan came to Britain two years ago through the migrant camps at Calais in France and claimed he was at risk from the Taliban because of his job at a construction company with links to the Afghan government and US corporations.
When he arrived in the UK in 2015, Mr Bigzad went to Kent to care for his father – a British citizen who claimed he was tortured by the Taliban in the 1990s.
But Mr Bigzad was refused asylum and was denied permission to appeal. He was later reportedly detained during a routine immigration appointment.
His family are now attempting to get the Afghan interior ministry to notify the British Government that they cannot guarantee his welfare in Afghanistan, as part of a bid for a fresh asylum claim.
Turkish Airlines had not responded to request for comment. The Home Office said it would not comment on individual cases.