The Stansted 15 stood up for justice. And now I stand up for them | Letter from Catherine West MP

Activists who peacefully seek to defend people’s right of access to justice should not be facing the prospect of life imprisonment under legislation designed to tackle terrorism, writes the Labour MP Catherine West

Two of the Stansted 15 human rights activists who peacefully intervened to stop a deportation flight are my constituents. People who stand up for asylum seekers aren’t terrorists and they shouldn’t be treated as such (Stansted 15 protesters launch appeal against their terrorism convictions, 8 January).

The Aviation and Maritime Security Act was brought in after the Lockerbie bombing to update and enhance protections for airports and ports. Yet it is being used in this context to prosecute peaceful protesters. Indeed, this will be the first time it has been used against non-violent activists.

The Stansted 15’s cause was grounded in a strong moral case to ensure that those passengers faced with deportation had their right of access to justice protected – the chance to complete the process for applying for asylum, which crucially must include the opportunity for appeal. A number of passengers had their immigration cases overturned at appeal as a result of this flight being grounded.

Access to justice shouldn’t depend on actions taken by human rights defenders, but this Tory government’s “hostile environment” and “deport first, appeal later” policy has created a terrible injustice for people fleeing harm and persecution. Activists who peacefully seek to defend them should not be facing the prospect of life imprisonment under legislation designed to tackle terrorism.
Catherine West MP
Labour, Hornsey and Wood Green

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