Sunday, 28 February 2010

'Racist' UK Border Agency office hosts mass protest

By Paul Canning

The UK Border Agency office from which gay Azerbaijan asylum seeker Babi Badalov was sent to be deported was the scene of a large protest on Friday 26 Feb.

Protesters called for an independent inquiry following allegations by whistleblower Louise Perrett, who worked for the Agency last summer, that there was a culture of racist discrimination within the office.

Amongst her claims Perrett said:
  • Staff kept a stuffed gorilla, a "grant monkey", which was placed as a badge of shame on the desk of any officer who approved an asylum application.
  • One official boasted to her that he tested the claims of boys from African countries who said they had been forcibly conscripted as child soldiers by making them lie down on the floor and demonstrate how they shot at people in the bush. 
  • One method used to determine the authenticity of an asylum seeker claiming to be from North Korea was to ask whether the person ate chop suey (which is an American dish).
  • If a case was difficult she was simply advised to refuse it and "let a tribunal sort it out".
  • She was given the power to make legally binding decisions on whether asylum seekers were granted or refused asylum after just five weeks' training.
  • One manager said of the office's asylum-seeker clients: "If it was up to me I'd take them all outside and shoot them."
The Cross Party Group for Human Rights, is also calling for an independent inquiry into the alleged discrimination at the Agency.

This audio report by the Welsh Green Dragon website covers the background and speaks with one of the main protest organisers, a Congolese man.

Over 200 people, mostly refugees but also prominent members of Zimbabwean, Congolese, Kurdish and other community groups, attended the three hour demonstration organised by Refugee Voice Wales. It is rare for asylum seekers to publicly demonstrate, No Borders South Wales says: "there has been a justifiable fear amongst people seeking asylum that attending a demonstration would harm their claim".

Everyone’s Favourite Comrade said:
For a weekday in Cardiff it is quite rare to see a demonstration of that size and the police were clearly stunned by the amount of people there and had to call for reinforcements.
Refugee Voice Wales said that they will be calling more protests every month until there is an independent inquiry, the suspension of all deportations and a review of all cases from the Cardiff office (full list of demands).

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