Aino Korvensyrjä & Maman Salissou Oumarou
Amsterdam – Accra
23 Apr 2014 Dep: 15h 10
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (KL) 589
A: So you filmed a deportation?
S: As I entered the aircraft, I heard that somebody was screaming in the back. Eli was already there, and told me that they wanted to deport someone.
I asked a stewardess what was happening. She answered that they wanted to take somebody to Ghana, but that this person didn’t want to go. “Then leave him alone,” I said. She said she had no power over it and pointed towards the policemen. I went to them and asked them what was going on. One of them told me to return to my seat. They would come to explain the situation to me. I insisted that I wanted to see it, so that they wouldn’t have to explain.
After an argument they gave up and one of them told me, repeating what the stewardess had said, that they wanted to take somebody to Ghana, but this person didn’t want to go. “If he doesn’t want to, then leave him in peace”, I said. “No”, he said.
The man continued screaming, forced to lie down on a four person seat. His head was being held down by one policeman, his feet by another.
“Listen to how he screams,” I said. A policeman: “He will stop screaming when the flight has taken off”. “You should just leave him alone, this doesn’t get us anywhere,” I said. “Go to your place or you’ll have to leave the plane”, he told me. I kept arguing with him while other passengers told me to go sit down, so that we could take off.
Finally I went to my seat, to get my phone. When I noticed that it was not working, I grabbed an SLR. Eli had secretly been filming all of this time with the small camera. I told him to use the bigger one, a Panasonic HVX.
As we started to film, the atmosphere changed radically. At first people hadn’t realized what was happening. It was me who uttered the word “deportation” aloud. When I turned on the camera, they told me to turn it off. I told them that I would not do so until they’d stop the deportation. “Stop deportations, stop this deportation!” I kept shouting while the pólice man insisted “Stop filming!” I went on: “I will not fly in this plane! Nobody will fly in this plane. Stop this deportation!” The other passengers understood that this was serious.
A: Did they also say aloud that they did not want it to happen?
S: There were two or three, who said it aloud.
A: And the others?
S: The others said nothing at first. They were simply afraid. But there were some passengers who said that he should be deported. This hurt me very much.
The policemen kept telling me to return to my seat. Finally I did so. But at that moment the aircraft was already in a quite agitated state. Many passengers had stood up and were talking loudly to each other.
From the beginning, I had decided that either I would leave the plane or this other person would leave. I was willing to take the risk to be removed from the plane. I was on my way to Ghana to shoot my diploma film. Not an easy decision. But I just wanted out of this plane. To hell with the diploma, I would not do it, I didn’t care. I didn’t want to experience this.
Then suddenly they told me that I could stay, that he’d leave. They took him out of the plane. We had there about a 20 minute delay before we could start off to Ghana.
A: Could we think of this as a model, as a set of instructions, for anybody who encounters an in-process deportation?
S: The question is, how can we reach people? Many people know in principle what a deportation is. But the trick that the policemen used in the aircraft, was to not use this word, “deportation”. Instead they say that they want to take him home, to his family, but he doesn’t want to go.
A: Back where he belongs, to his place.
S: Exactly. And as a passenger you think, “well he should go to his family”. When in fact it is a deportation, even when they don’t use the word. Because even if there would be a family waiting for him, they would expect him to return with dignity, not like this.
A: I hope they didn’t take him on the next plane.
S: No idea. Anyways, they didn’t take him on ours.
Afterwards I spoke briefly with the captain, and asked him whether he knew that what he was doing there was dangerous. I wanted to film him but he refused. He gave me his card.
A: Huh. But he does this thing always, right? Flies deportations, I mean.
S: Yes, and I told him that it was dangerous. In Germany it has happened for instance that somebody whom they wanted to deport to Sudan was dead already before they had crossed the national border, on the way from Frankfurt to Munich. And they had to make a stop in Munich to remove his corpse from the plane.