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Friday, 10 June 2011

UK removing en masse Iraqis, Sri Lankans to danger

Protest outside Campsfield detention centre
Source: NCADC

By Liam Docherty

In recent weeks the government has detained at least 70 Iraqi asylum seekers, in preparation for a mass deportation to Baghdad. It appears that a date has been set for 20 June.

Officials from the Iraqi government are currently visiting detainees to confirm their identities so that they can be deported, as part of an agreement between the two governments. 37 Asylum seekers in Campsfield detention centre have responded with a hunger strike. Today will be its fourth day. Supporters have gathered outside Campsfield to protest against the forced removals.

Many of these asylum seekers have been in the UK for several years, making close friends and starting families. Take Adam Aziz Ali, who is due to be removed on a flight to Baghdad 20 June. Adam is a Kurdish Iraqi. He has been here for five years, living with his partner, Joanne, in County Durham for almost four years. In that time he has become part of her family. They see him as a son, a brother, and an uncle. They cannot understand why a close member of their family should be removed. The Home Office has judged, rather robotically, that Adam has not developed relationships “beyond normal emotional ties”. His human right to a family life is not being affected “disproportionately”.

Iraq is a rocked by civil unrest, sectarian violence, suicide bombings and, more recently, a bloody backlash against civil rights protests.

The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees has reported that:
“many of those who have been deported to Iraq in the past are now living in hiding, in fear of the persecution they originally left Iraq to flee. Some have been assassinated. Others have committed suicide only days after being deported or have been kidnapped and killed, while others have had mental breakdowns. Many more have had to leave the country and become refugees again.”
Like Adam, many of the asylum seekers due to be removed are Kurdish. The IFIR has shown particular concern for the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan – a society maligned by corruption, institutional violence and a poverty of basic services such as hospitals and clean water. While protests have been held outside Campsfield, sister protests planned in Kurdistan have been denied permission by the regional government. In Adam’s case, the Home Office suggested that “there is nothing to prevent Joanne from accompanying Mr Ali”. We disagree.

It is clear that the government plan to carry out the removals imminently, unconcerned by the asylum seekers’ right to a family life or by the dangers they will face in Iraq.

Meanwhile the asylum seekers are determined to fight the decision.
“If we don’t get these decisions for us as humans and for our safety we will not eat until we die, rather than to be made to return to these war torn countries”, said one.

Sri Lankans put at risk by UKBA breach of confidentiality

The immigration Barrister who blogs as Free Movement has revealed a serious breach of confidentiality of Sri Lankan refugees scheduled for deportation.

Ahead of a planned mass expulsion of Sri Lankans from Britain, the UK Border Agency is allowing Sri Lankan officials to interrogate detainees in the UK about their asylum claims, and is passing confidential asylum court documents.

The UK government has scheduled a charter flight for a mass expulsion to Sri Lanka on16 June. Some media are claiming that 250-300 mostly Tamil refugees are due to be deported. Free Movement warns that:
"the fact that there is a removal en masse arguably itself gives rise to significant concern as to the treatment of the returnees on return, given that the nature of removal will attract attention to them and identify the returnees as failed asylum seekers."
But it gets worse. The woman in question, known as 'XT', was interviewed in detention in the UK by an official from the Sri Lankan High Commission. She was unrepresented when this interview occurred and her representatives had no notification of the interview.

During this interview, ostensibly to verify her identity and nationality, it was revealed that the Home Office had passed confidential court documents from XT's asylum appeal, with reference to her family's connections with the LTTE Tamil Tigers.

There are growing concerns over the safety of the Sri Lankans rounded up for this mass expulsion. Questions need to be asked:
  • Why does the UKBA allow Sri Lankan government officials to interrogate detainees in the UK? 
  • What documents are being passed to them? 
  • Can the UK government guarantee the safety of Sri Lankans being deported?
Until these questions are answered, there should be no expulsion on 16 June or any other date.

This comes amid ongoing concerns that the Sri Lankan government is trying to cover up war crimes and other atrocities committed during the war.

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