Deportee Management: introducing Emirates Group Security’s Special Operations Team

As the requirement for deportee management increases across the globe, Emirates Group Security has developed a core team trained to deal with this particular type of situation. This article covers the individual selection process, training methods and role of the Special Operations Team, and explains why it is such a vital part of Emirates’ security operations.

As the world’s largest international airline, Emirates is responsible for an ever-growing number of passengers who travel across its global network of over 150 destinations. Last year alone, 50 million passengers travelled with Emirates and as the passenger and destination counts continue to grow, aviation safety and security becomes even more critical.

To keep up with the growing demands of a shrinking globe and increased interconnectedness, Emirates Group Security (EGS), the division responsible for the overall security of the Emirates Group, has developed and built multi-faceted security capabilities to support the growth of the Emirates Group while maintaining the very best standards of aviation security.

One of EGS’s specialist capabilities is deportee management. For many organisations, the role of security escorts or advisors is often contracted to a third party provider and many in the aviation industry are still in search of the most appropriate skill provider. Emirates has taken deportee management to the next level with the creation of a special unit within its security team who are specifically trained to handle such situations.

The Special Operations Team
Within EGS, a unit known the Special Operations Team (SOT) has been specially trained and fully equipped with the necessary skills and tools to escort deportees and manage disruptive and potentially high-risk passengers. Members of the special unit are also deployed as AVSEC officers for high profile and security flights and to co-ordinate ground security measures. These personnel work tirelessly behind the scenes to ensure the utmost levels of security are maintained both in the air and on the ground. The concept of SOT is unique in that it brings together staff with diverse experience and capabilities who are trained in techniques that have been developed internally by EGS and operate according to protocols that have evolved over years of experience.

The entire process, from recruiting to training of SOT members is handled in-house using an evidence-based approach honed over the years. The learning and development teams at EGS, have also developed tailored defensive and tactical martial arts programmes called Advance Control Techniques (ACT) for ground staff, and Advanced Restraint Techniques (ART) for cabin crew.

Developed in 2005, these specialised forms of martial arts incorporate techniques influenced by Tae-Kwan-Do, Eskrima and Win-Chung. They aim to deal with a restraint situation in a close-quarter environment (such as an aircraft cabin) within the shortest possible time with minimal use of physical force. The curriculum also incorporates the elements of the Tokyo Convention and is designed to meet the requirements of ICAO Annex 6, Chapter 13, and equip staff with necessary self-defence skills.

The success of the programme was years in the making, beginning with an EGS commissioned study into the profile of previous deportees to fully understand what the needs of deportee management were and how to meet them. Working closely with stakeholders and Edith Cowan University of Western Australia, the study analysed data on deportees and this provided insight into the kind of team required and the training that needed to be developed to equip this newly formed team. The most important findings included the effectiveness of the element of deterrence to prevent an undesirable situation from occurring, and the element of surprise in affecting a restraint should a situation arise. Restraining a person is the last course of action to be taken after all other preventive and cautionary measures have been exhausted. The core focus is on using effective communication as the key to managing conflict in such situations.

EGS recruits special operations personnel from around the world and the 35-strong team, which includes 5 women, currently comprises ten different nationalities including Emirati nationals. The team members bring in a diverse range of experience and capabilities to SOT. The strength of SOT is expected to grow in line with expected increase in the operations performed by the team.

The individuals who are selected to work as part of SOT are handpicked for their communication skills as well as their physical strength. Potential candidates are taken through an extremely thorough and careful assessment process involving a written test, group discussion sessions, IQ test and role play scenarios to ascertain suitability for the unique job description. On average, EGS selects 2 out of every 100 applicants.