German pilots stopped 222 deportations by refusing to fly, report says

More than 220 deportations were stopped in Germany when pilots tasked with transporting them out of the country refused to fly the plane with them on board, a report says.

Between January and September 2017, a total of 222 planned deportations were classified as “failed” due to a pilots’ refusal to take off, government figures show. Most of the flights were taking people back to Afghanistan, where violence is still rife. Germany deems the Middle Eastern country a “safe country of origin.”

The figures were obtained and released by the Die Linke political party, which is commonly referred to as the Left Party. Westdeutsche Allegeimeine Zeitung newspaper first reported the figures.

It's unclear whether the reason the pilots refused to fly was fear of terrorism or humanitarian concern.

According to the report, some of the grounded flights belonged to Lufthansa Airlines and its subsidiary, Eurowings.

A spokesman for the airline told Westdeutsche Allegeimeine Zeitung that the decision not to carry a passenger ultimately is the pilot’s on a “case-by-case decision.”

“If he has the impression that flight safety could be affected, he must refuse the transport of a passenger,” spokesman Michael Lamberty added. “Should security personnel at the airports have some sort of information in advance which indicates that a situation could escalate during a deportation, they can decide ahead of time not to let the passengers onboard.”

According to the figures, most of the grounded flights occurred at the Frankfurt Airport. Others refused to fly from Cologne and Bonn.

Pilots who refuse to fly on moral ground could face disciplinary measures.

Lufthansa Group spokesman Helmut Tolksford told RBB24 that he was not aware of “any case where one of our pilots has refused to take them for reasons of conscience.”