German pilots ground flights after refusing to deport 222 asylum seekers

The decision not to carry a passenger was made on a 'case by case decision', says Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty 

German pilots have grounded more than 220 flights because they were being used to deport failed asylum seekers. 

Many of the pilots involved said they wanted no part in sending people back to Afghanistan, where violence is still rife following years of war and occupation by Western forces.

Germany has deemed it a "safe country of origin" in some cases, despite ongoing violence and repression in parts of the country.

Between January and September 222 flights were cancelled, according to German government figures, with most – 140 – coming at Frankfurt airport. Others refused to fly from Cologne and Bonn. 

The figures were obtained by the Die Linke political party, which is commonly referred to as the Left Party. 

Some of the grounded flights belonged to Lufthansa and its subsidiary, Eurowings.

The decision not to carry a passenger, was ultimately down to the pilot on a "case by case decision",  Lufthansa spokesman Michael Lamberty told the Westdeutsche Allegeimeine Zeitung newspaper which originally reported the story. 

He added: "If he has the impression that flight safety could be affected, he must refuse the transport of a passenger. 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 board."

Germany processed more asylum applications than all 27 other EU countries combined. European statistics agency Eurostat, said that the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees (BAMF) decided 388,201 asylum cases in the first six months of 2017.

At least one similar refusal is known to have taken place in the UK when British Airways pilot refused to take off while Samim Bigzad was on board earlier this year.

Mr Bigzad, an Afghan, faced deportation to the city where the Taliban had threatened to kill him. 

 “You’re not going to take him; I’m not flying," the pilot said. "Someone’s life is at risk.”

* Update. This article and headline have been corrected to reflect the fact that 222 asylum seekers' deportations from Germany were prevented by pilots refusing to fly, rather than a total of 222 flights being grounded by German pilots.  6/12/17