A group of passengers who forced a two-and-a-half delay of a flight between Barcelona and Dakar by protesting against the deportation of a Senegalese man on-board, were barred from re-boarding the plane and are now considering legal action.
There were 172 passengers scheduled to depart on low-cost airline Vueling’s flight VY7888 from Catalonia to Senegal 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 El Prat airport. He was barred from entering 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 El Diario newspaper.
A commotion ensued, with several passengers leaving their seats and enquiring about the man. Their enquiries then morphed into an impromptu protest.
"Those who look at this guy's eyes, we see clearly that what was happening was inhuman," said Mikel Basarte, one of those defending the migrant.
"Many people are standing up to stop this flight of shame," another posted to a social network at the time, according to the Publico news website.
Ho hem aconseguit! Vol de deportació aturat. Ara venen les autoritats a emportar-se la persona! La solidaritat és la nostra millor arma! pic.twitter.com/x8OSUzu2Dx— Anna Palou Solé (@annapalou) 15 July 2017
By this time, the Caravana Abriendo Fronteras (Open Borders Caravan) group was made aware of the incident and staged its own demonstration, clapping and dancing a conga while shouting pro-immigration slogans in the departure terminal of El Prat airport.
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.
"We have succeeded! Flight of deportation stopped. Now the authorities are coming to take the person away! Solidarity is our best weapon!" read a tweet from one of the protesters.
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 eleven barred passengers, 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 eleven face fines of between €45,000 and €90,000.
Vueling, headquartered in Barcelona, responded by saying that the passengers faces 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.