Socialist Worker

Politicians want to jail these people

Issue No. 1697

Victims of persecution and torture

Politicians want to jail these people

HERE ARE some of the refugees politicians want to lock up in detention camps. They get food and lodgings for a few days before being scattered to various towns in Britain under New Labour's dispersal programme. Some were too scared to give their names or to have their pictures taken.

All their stories are chilling. In the little English they knew they wanted to tell us why they had to leave their homes and families. One 16 year old fled the civil war in Sierra Leone. He told of how scared he was as he stowed away for days on board a ship. He did not know what country he was in until he saw a sign saying "Dover". Hioa Shikh is a Kurd who faced persecution in Iraq.

He was forced to flee in a lorry with his pregnant wife and their two children after a hand grenade was thrown into their house. He used to work as a teacher. He says, "I'll go anywhere in Britain. Maybe I can get a job. Maybe my children can go to school. I hope I can stay. No one is going to kill me here."

Fleeing Kosovo

AGRON BLAKAJ, aged 21, fled from Kosovo. His body bears the scars of a hand grenade thrown at him and his family. He is also mentally scarred. The old photograph on the left is of his sisters and his brother. All were killed in a grenade attack. On the right is a photograph of another brother, who is now in a Belgrade prison. Agron's father died in a massacre in 1998.

NATO used such horrific examples to justify bombing the Balkans last year. But New Labour's supposed compassion for Kosovans was a sham. Home secretary Jack Straw announced last month that the region was now safe, so every Kosovan refugee would have to go back or face "enforcement action". Agron spends his day with two other refugees from Eastern Europe. Xhemajc Bitici, a fellow Kosovan, is 28 years old. His brother was killed in a massacre and his family are in prison. Xhevair Zoto, 26 years old, escaped from Albania by lorry. He shows us his documents from the Immigration Service. They give him his identity-"illegal immigrant". Xhevair is appealing against this judgement. If he fails he could be one of the 2,000 refugees who New Labour plans to lock up in its new detention camps.

Scapegoating fires attacks

WAHID AKBAR is 25 years old. His life has been on hold since he fled Afghanistan. His days are spent waiting to hear which town the Immigration Service will place him in. After breakfast there is little to do but hang around until lunchtime. The refugees are wary of going into Dover shopping centre, where they feel they are not welcome. One refugee worker said, "There is a real relationship between the comments about refugees in the press and a rise in racist attacks in Dover. "When political figures say these things local yobs use it to justify their racism."

'I want to contribute'

"I AM so happy here. I can start to breathe fully." So said 19 year old Mussa Brhan Ahmed, a refugee from Eritrea. He is now moving to permanent accommodation in a city in the north of England. Mussa says, "I am still worried about my family. The trouble started when we moved from Eritrea to Addis Ababa. They detained my family because we were from Eritrea. Eritreans are not treated well there. I did not want to have to do national service. A lot of young people aged 17 and 18 are dying. So my mother sold her gold to buy me a seat on the plane. I read a lot of books. I would really like to study at university-maybe something like law or in healthcare, something related to helping people."

Maimed by Taliban

"LIFE IS very difficult for us in Afghanistan. There are no jobs. The schools are all closed. There is only war. When the Taliban come it is very dangerous. They want to take young men to be soldiers. I don't want to fight. I was very scared. So I left and my uncle escaped after me. It took three months for us to get out. We walked most of the way. I only brought what I am wearing now. Tonight I will wash my jeans. Tomorrow I will wear them again."

  • MOHAMMED KARIM, 26 years old

THE TABLOID press went into a frenzy against Afghan refugees in February after a plane from the country was hijacked and brought to Britain. The Sun said, "Fight To Kick Out The Afghans". But Mohammed and his 40 year old uncle, Jalil Zad, show how disgusting the anti-refugee hysteria is. Mohammed had his front teeth knocked out by a blow aimed at his head. His palm has a circular scar on it after a Taliban supporter burned him with a cigarette. Jalil did not want us to show his left hand. The Taliban sliced off his thumb and little finger.

No money

ASYLUM SEEKERS are not housed in luxury hotels or given piles of state benefits as the press would have us believe. Twenty three year old Jaferi Tahir Hussain fled from Afghanistan. He shares a room with another refugee. He will only get vouchers worth �28.75 a week after he has been dispersed to another town in Britain.

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Sat 20 May 2000, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1697
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