Immigration

Amazon.com Owns 19.5% of Company Implicated in Torture Allegations

Wrapping people along with packages, the world’s richest online retailer joins the global war on asylum

Sarah Towle
4 min readJan 7, 2022
ICE-Air Contractor Omni Air International preparing for take-off at Alliance Field, Fort Worth, TX, with Cameroonian asylum seekers aboard restrained in The WRAP (image courtesy of the Texas Dream Team, Oct 2020)

On his November 5, 2021, third-quarter investor call, Rich Corrado, CEO of Air Transport Services Group took a moment to celebrate one of ATSG’s subsidiaries: Omni Air International. Omni evacuated more than 20,000 US-Americans and at-risk civilians out of Afghanistan in August 2021, contributing to the company’s record quarterly revenue of $466 million.

What Corrado didn’t mention was how ATSG also profited from the dark side of the humanitarian divide that quarter.

In September, Omni planes ferried Haitian asylum seekers from Del Rio, Texas, to El Paso, facilitating “the largest mass deportation campaign in five decades with 154 removal flights to Haiti, up from 37 in 2020, that expelled over 15,000 Haitians,” according to Thomas Cartwright, who tracks ICE-Air flight for Witness at the Border.

That’s 15,000 men, women, and children pushed back to a country roiled by chaos and gang rule, just as 20,000 Afghans facing similar pressures found refuge in the US.

It’s no surprise Corrado omitted Omni’s Haiti connection on the investor call. The company, which makes most of its money shipping packages for Amazon.com, also contracts for the Department of Defense and US Immigration and Customs Enforcement — work conducted largely in the shadows.

Omni is the only charter airline willing to fly long-haul deportations flights for ICE-Air, for which it is handsomely paid — though you won’t find that revenue detailed in ATSG’s earnings reports. In the last half of 2020, Omni flew an ICE-Air mission each month to Africa. From August through December, Omni’s Boeing 767s landed in Nigeria, Senegal, The Democratic Republic of Congo, Angola, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, and Cameroon (twice).

Omni’s human cargo are enchained, always, in five-point restraints — hands and ankles cuffed in thick metal bracelets and attached to a heavy waist chain — for the duration of their forced “repatriation.” Cartwright’s flight data show that after taking off from Fort Worth’s…

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Sarah Towle

Award-winning London-based author sharing her journey from outrage to activism one tale of humanity and podcast episode at a time @THE FIRST SOLUTION on Medium