A British court has ruled that nine Afghan asylum seekers who hijacked a plane to the UK six years ago can stay in the country as refugees. The group hijacked a flight out of Kabul in February 2000, ordering the pilot to fly to London, where they claimed political asylum from the Taliban regime.
The High Court ruling accuses Tony Blair’s government, which wanted to deport the Afghans, of abusing its power by stalling implementation of an earlier legal decision in favour of the asylum seekers – something the prime minister strenuously denies.
“We can’t have a situation in which people who hijack a plane, we’re not able to deport back to their country,” he said. “It’s not an abuse of justice for us to order their deportation, it’s an abuse of common sense frankly to be in a position where we can’t do this.”
A 2004 decision by an appeal panel said that under human rights law, the Afghans could not be sent home because their lives would be in danger. But Britain’s interior ministry says it still wants to deport the group as soon as possible and is considering whether to appeal against the latest ruling.