THE deportation of a young Afghan man refused asylum by Britain has been dramatically stayed after the pilot of the plane he was supposed to be deported on refused to take off.
Samim Bigzad's friends and family feared their efforts to prevent him being forced back to Kabul had failed when he was arrested and booked on a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul and on to Afghanistan.
The 22-year-old's cousin had previously said Samim feared he would be killed in the city he fled two years ago after the Taliban threatened to behead him.
More than 3000 people had signed a petition appealing for the deportation to be delayed so his asylum claim could be reviewed.
Campaigners travelled to Heathrow Airport to talk to passengers taking the flight, in the hope they would raise objections to crew members.
Bridget Chapman, who organised the trip, said activists "very quietly” approached people at check-in to explain their flight was being used to forcibly deport Mr Bigzad.
"We asked people to do whatever they were comfortable with raising it with airline staff,” she said.
"Security asked us to stop after a while, but ... most people had boarded.”
Ms Chapman, chairwoman of the Kent Anti-Racism Network, said campaigners "genuinely thought they had failed” when the flight eventually took off 45 minutes late.
European Aviation Safety Agency regulations say a pilot is responsible for the "safety of the aircraft and of all crew members, passengers and cargo on board”, giving them power over who boards the plane and when or if it takes off.
Mr Bigzad and guards were in the tunnel by the door when the pilot came out and said: "You're not going to take him, I'm not flying. Someone's life is at risk.” - INM