By Thomas Byrne
“The Eye didn’t need yet another speech from Alan “Turnabout” Johnson last week on immigration to know that power at all costs has triumphed over principle.
Two years ago, Johnson, then mere MP for Hull West and Hessle, made a “life or death” appeal to Home Office ministers to intervene in the case of an asylum seeker who had found refuge in his constituency but was facing deportation. To return this man to his country with its dangerous human rights record “would be devastating for him, his family, indeed it could prove fatal”, pleaded Johnson. “There are few cases where we need our system to work more than this one.”
But last month the 35-year-old was returned to that very country, thanks to none other than Alan Johnson, home secretary and prize hypocrite – according to Labour activists in his constituency (where one has given up his lifelong Labour party membership in protest.)
The move came despite a detailed report prepared by the Medical Foundation for the Victims of Torture, which concluded that the many scars on the man’s head, stomach, legs, soles of his feet, hands and toes were “highly consistent” with his detailed accounts of the torture he had endured as an opposition activist. Because there are genuine fears for his safety, the Eye is not identifying the man or his country.
But none of this holds sway with Johnson. He recently wrote a detailed letter to the Rev Mick Fryer, who has campaigned for the asylum seeker to be accepted as a genuine refugee: “Having looked at the case in detail I am satisfied that the proper processes have been followed and that it would be inappropriate for me to intervene in this matter.”
The man was living openly in the UK, integrated into society and going through the proper legal processes in the belief that he would be granted refugee status. That is until his former champion turned his back on him. The Eye asked Johnson’s office about this particular U-turn. Answer came there none.”
Originally published in the 13- November – 26 November Issue of Private Eye.
Are we going to see the likes of John Rentoul giving up their AJ4PM campaign in the light of hypocrisy and backstabbing such as this? (I’m not surprised if this is one of the many questions to which the answer is no.)
Amnesty International has catalogued the humans rights abuses of the country which thius man comes from, and states that the cases it has exposed mainly involve killing and torture for the repression of political dissent namely working there as a press officer for the opposition party. After other members of his party had been subjected to torture, he fled to the UK, and settled in Hull, where he lived for seven years.
Since arriving here he has married, and together they have had a baby girl, who is approaching her 1st birthday. They regularly attended a local church. He was a volunteer for the Citizens Advice Bureau, and a member of the Labour party. He may now well have been abandoned by Alan Johnson but not his community. Thanks to the efforts of his vicar and fellow church-goers who held revolts at Heathrow Airport. In February his asylum application was refused. The UK Border Agency have three times failed to deport him,. On one occasion he was even on the plane, but it took an intervention from an Air France pilot to secure his stay in the UK.
He was moved between five detention centres in as many months, separated from his wife and baby. During two of his attempted deportations, he claims he was kicked and beaten by guards. (Not that we have that in the UK of course), now, he is sent home possibly to his death.
What motivation does Alan Johnson have for turning his back on his man? Is it in the light of him admitting mistakes were made on immigration? Is there something wrong this man was supposed to have done? We can’t know until we extract an explanation from him.
A request to make of any readers in Hull why not e-mail Alan and try get a comment where Private Eye failed? It’s not like he’s got anything to be ashamed of is it? No blood on his hands is t… oh wait