Men dragged from detention centres in the middle of the night. At the airport about a third are selected and are forcibly bundled onto a clandestine flight. When they touch down they are in the place from where they had fled torture and persecution.
That’s the reality of the forced deportation of about 15 Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seekers from Britain last weekend. They had been told they would have somewhere to stay. Instead they were given £60 and dumped on the street.
Some of those being rounded up are are still going through the process of applying to stay in Britain.
These deportations were the first shocking act in what New Labour hopes to be a regular occurrence as it attempts to force out 7,000 Iraqi-Kurdish asylum seekers from Britain.
These are people whose suffering at the hands of Saddam Hussein was used as a fig leaf by Tony Blair for the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
“Now they face deportation to a country that is one of the most unsafe places in the world, not because of Saddam Hussein this time, but because of what we have done,” says the British wife of one Iraqi-Kurd in north west England.
“And they are doing it all to ‘prove’ that they are somehow bringing peace to Iraq.”
Tellingly, the letter this woman’s husband received claiming it was safe for him to be returned to northern Iraq came from British officials based not inside the country itself, but in the Jordanian capital Amman.
The British government is pouring out propaganda to justify the deportations. It claims the area of northern Iraq controlled by two rival Kurdish militias—the PUK and KDP—is somehow safe for asylum seekers to be returned to, whether they are from there or not.
In fact, Amnesty International reported earlier this year on the widespread abuses of human rights by the police forces loyal to the two groups.
The foreign office advises British citizens not to travel to the area. And the home office’s own document claiming it is safe for deported asylum seekers reads like another “dodgy dossier”.
It says, “The general security situation in Iraqi Kurdistan is benign compared to the rest of Iraq.” But “compared” to large scale warfare in the rest of Iraq many very dangerous parts of the world can be considered “benign”.
It quotes a document from the United Nations High Commission for Refugees saying that a “differentiated approach as regards to returns” to the area controlled by the Kurdish militias “could be envisioned”.
“Could be” in the future — that is no ringing endorsement. And the home office fails to quote large sections from the same report that highlight the insecurity in the area.
The Immigration Advisory Service has produced an analysis of the “country guidelines” British authorities produce to try to show it is safe to deport asylum seekers.
Among other flaws, it found:
- They “lack proper referencing of the evidence considered, meaning cases cannot be challenged”.
- They are “based on incomplete country information, with important and up-to-date evidence either not considered or ignored”.
- “Expert evidence is routinely rejected rather than assimilated into an overall judgment.”
It is on the basis of evidence like that that Hawar and 14 other Kurdish people were forcibly deported on Sunday.
Dashty Jamal from the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees describes what happened:
“Hawar was taken to a centre ready for deportation. He was alone in a room, and the officers brought a paper that they wanted him to sign to give his consent to deportation. He refused.
“Four security men were brought into the room. Hawar was physically beaten and put into handcuffs. He was pushed into a van with about 40 other Kurdish Iraqi men and driven to an airport.”
Campaigners are seeking to build opposition to the deportations across Britain. One sign of how worried the government is about this growing movement came on Monday of this week.
Scottish Socialist MSP Tommy Sheridan and two others were arrested after a peaceful protest outside an immigration office in Glasgow that is used to send out squads to snatch asylum seekers in dawn raids.
Tommy had just thanked the police for cooperating with the protesters when he was arrested. He was charged with breach of the peace, held overnight and appeared in court on Tuesday.
He and campaigners in Glasgow and beyond have vowed not to be intimidated but to step up the fight against the deportations.
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