Police make 17 arrests after anti-deportation protests temporarily halt flights at Stansted Airport

PUBLISHED: 09:23 29 March 2017 | UPDATED: 13:32 29 March 2017

Campaigners staged an anti-deportation protest at Stansted Airport last night which temporarily closed the runway. Picture: Stop Charter Flights/PA Wire

Campaigners staged an anti-deportation protest at Stansted Airport last night which temporarily closed the runway. Picture: Stop Charter Flights/PA Wire

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Flights at Stansted Airport were temporarily halted and 17 people arrested after anti-deportation protestors chained themselves to a plane destined for Nigeria.

The group of protestors managed to get into a secure area and put up a blockade near a non-commercial runway.

It is believed the group were attempting to stop a charter flight, which they claimed was being used to deport people to Nigeria and Ghana.

The runway reopened around 11.15pm on Tuesday night, but 23 inbound flights were diverted to other airports as a result of the temporary closure.

Essex Police confirmed it arrested 17 people on suspicion of aggravated trespass and they remain in police custody.

A Stansted Airport spokesman said: “At approximately 10pm Stansted Airport’s runway was closed as a precaution while police dealt with a number of individuals who had entered a remote area of the airfield, away from the runway and main passenger terminal.

“The situation was quickly contained, but the police carried out a full inspection of the airfield in advance of confirming it was safe to recommence flight operations at 11.17pm.”

Campaigners from End Deportations, Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSMigrants) and Plane Stupid posted images and videos of the protest on social media.

In a Facebook post they said the protest was “to stop a mass deportation ’charter flight’ to Nigeria and Ghana”.

The group said a protest involving eight activists had forced the cancellation of the flight and its crew were seen leaving the plane.

Susan James, of Plane Stupid, said: “I don’t want to stay silent in the face of mass deportations that are deliberately rushed and secretive.”

Sean O’Callaghan, acting assistant chief constable of Essex Police, said: ““We have contingency plans in place for any incident at the airport and have quickly contained the protesters in one area with minimal impact on airport operations and procedures.

“We continue to work closely with our partners and the airport authority as we are working to apprehend the protesters quickly and effectively.”

Essex Police said further enquiries into the incident are ongoing.

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