Between 200 and 300 Libyan pilots and aviation engineers training in Britain have been banned from flying civilian aircraft here and are expected to leave the country, the government said today.
The aviation trainees are enrolled in civilian flying and aircraft engineering schools. Their restriction has been under consideration since early this month, when a Libyan radio station in Tripoli broadcast a telephone call from one of them who volunteered himself and others for "suicide missions" against U.S. installations here.
Police made no comment today on the investigation of yesterday's bombing at a British Airways office in London. Although anonymous calls tied the bomb to several obscure domestic groups, police said they believed it was "Mideast-related."
The explosion, which took place outside a British Airways facility that also houses American Airlines and American Express services, caused extensive property damage but no serious injuries.
Announcement of the move against the aviation trainees came as 22 other Libyan students ordered deported earlier this week left the country on a Libyan Arab Airlines flight. Although most had been enrolled at universities and technical schools, one of the deportees was the pilot trainee whose call was broadcast by Libyan radio.
The 22 students, self-described "revolutionary" organizers who were not charged with any crime but whose presence here was held to be against British interests, were taken to London's Heathrow airport in a police bus.
The deportation orders were part of a series of moves against Libyans here that began when London broke relations with Tripoli in 1984, after a British policewoman was killed by shots fired from inside the Libyan Embassy.
Efforts to restrict the 7,000-strong Libyan community in Britain have intensified in recent months following a series of terrorist attacks in Europe and increased western charges of Libyan involvement.
Restrictions on the several hundred aviation trainees announced today also follow a decision on Monday by the 12 European Community governments to reduce further the Libyan presence in their countries after the April 15 U.S. air attack on Libya. In launching the attack, the United States charged Libyan complicity in the bombing of a West Berlin discotheque on April 5 in which two persons, one of them American, were killed.
The aviation students are not being deported. Rather, their courses of study are being curtailed and they will no longer qualify for student visas.
In a written statement to Parliament, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher said that directions had been issued "to all operators of aircraft registered or operating in the U.K. and to managers of certain aerodromes which will prevent Libyan aviation engineering trainees from having access to aircraft except as passengers, and which will prevent Libyan pilot trainees from making solo flights.
"The effect of these measures," Thatcher said, "will be that such trainees will be unable to complete their courses or obtain qualifications. In that event their current basis of stay will no longer exist and they will be expected to leave."
Should the trainees "fail to leave voluntarily," she said, the home secretary "will not hesitate to use his powers to curtail their stay and initiate deportation action in appropriate cases."
Meanwhile, British tourist directors today launched a campaign to encourage American tourists to visit, the British Press Association reported.