For those of us who were inspired by 21-year-old Swedish student Elin Ersson's recent action on a Turkish Airlines airplane at the Göteborg Landvetter Airport to prevent the deportation of a man to Afghanistan, please also take note of the death of Bolante Idowu Alo as he was being deported on a KLM flight from the Calgary International Airport.
Global News reports, "On August 7, two [Canada Border Services Agency] officers attempted to deport Bolanle Alo from Canada. The agency said an altercation ensued on the aircraft before takeoff. Then, Alo went into medical distress and later died in hospital."
Alo had lived in Canada for twelve years, was married, had two adults sons, worked as a taxi driver and had no criminal record. CBC notes, "Alo told [Immigration and Refugee Board of Canada] officials [at a detention hearing in July that] one of his brothers had been killed in Nigeria and that he still had bullets in his body from his time in the country."
It is not known what exactly happened during the "altercation" on the KLM flight.
The Canadian Press reports, "[CBSA] documents show Alo was ordered deported on August 7, and the Canada Border Services Agency had a valid emergency travel document and flight with escorts booked."
CBC notes, "The altercation occurred prior to takeoff in Calgary. The plane was forced to return to the gate, where the Calgary police airport unit was called to the scene. Officers found [Alo] in medical distress [at about 3 pm local time]." The Toronto Star adds, "He was pronounced dead at Peter Lougheed hospital about 90 minutes later."
KLM has unhelpfully tweeted, "On board the KL678 Calgary -- Amsterdam (07 august), the behavior of a passenger led to a severe incident on board. Shortly before take-off, the aircraft returned to the gate where the passenger has been taken off board."
Global News reports, "The Calgary Police Service said their investigation could take six months." CBC adds, "An autopsy performed [August 8] did not confirm Alo's cause or manner of death, and police said further testing could take up to six months."
The Toronto Star has also reported a Calgary Police officer stating, “We are still working to track down and interview witnesses from the flight and don’t want any information we release to influence their recollection of events before we can get their statements."
The Calgary Herald notes, "Civil liberties advocates and refugee lawyers have called for an independent investigation into the incident and an investigation by the province’s chief medical examiner. While provincial law typically requires the medical examiner to investigate deaths that occur in detention or government care, the province was unable to clarify by press time [August 13] whether the rules apply to deaths that occur in CBSA custody."
There are many questions about how Alo died that need to be answered, but there is no question that deportation is a fundamental injustice, that airlines should take responsibility for the role they are playing in forcible removals and not profiting from the practice, and that another Elin Ersson could have made a difference.
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