International consumer group SumOfUs has crowdfunded mobile billboards to comment on Qantas’ involvement in the deportation of refugees.
The billboards will be crashing the Qantas-sponsored AFR 100 Women of Influence Awards tonight (17th October) and the airline’s AGM next Friday, where a shareholder proposal has been filed for an end to the controversial deportation flights.
“It’s disappointing that a small number of protesters are trying to take the focus away from celebrating the achievements of these outstanding women,” A Qantas spokesperson told Travel Weekly, referencing tonight’s event.
Pressure has been building on Qantas and Virgin Australia to stop carrying out deportation flights after a number of airlines including Virgin Atlantic, United and American Airlines announced plans earlier this year to stop carrying some forcibly deported passengers.
The billboards will read, “Deporting refugees is not the Spirit of Australia. Qantas doesn’t have to deport refugees. Other airlines are saying no. It’s time Qantas does too.”
Images of the Australian-born daughters of Tamil asylum seekers Priya and Nades, who were taken from their home in Bilolea, Queensland, to immigration detention in Melbourne will also appear on the billboards.
Supporters are calling on Qantas and other airlines to refuse to participate in the family’s deportation.
“The Australian Government relies on Qantas to help carry out its cruel and legally questionable deportation policy,” said Nick Haines, Senior Campaigner at SumOfUs.
“But Qantas is under no obligation to help Peter Dutton. It can say no.”
“A growing number of airlines across the world are refusing to carry out similar flights. It’s time our national carrier stopped carrying out our national shame. Australia’s refugee policy has been condemned by every major human rights body in the world.
“Why Qantas would want to continue to be an active enabler of that policy – particularly when it has taken such strong positions in the past on issues like LGBT rights, is baffling.
“Qantas executives and shareholders have the opportunity next Friday to be on the right side of history. They should take it.”
The Qantas spokesperson also said the airline appreciates that this is a sensitive issue.
“The Government and courts are best placed to make decisions on complex immigration matters, not airlines,” They said.
Qantas is one of many domestic and international airlines (including Virgin) who fly to and from Australia which carry asylum seekers on behalf of the Government.
It’s also worth noting that Qantas doesn’t fly to Sri Lanka or many of the places where most asylum seekers come from.