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Detained and deported – how the Tories really treat Syrian refugees

This article is over 8 years, 6 months old
As the first Syrians arrive in Britain, Dave Sewell uncovers the shocking truth of the numbers kicked out and detained by the British government
Issue 2481
protest in Glasgow in 2005 to defend refugees and asylum seekers

protest in Glasgow in 2005 to defend refugees and asylum seekers (Pic: Duncan Brown)

To great fanfare the first charter flights of Syrian refugees arrived in Glasgow last week. This brings the total taken in by Britain so far to a few hundred since David Cameron pledged to take in 20,000.

That’s little over 1 percent of Cameron’s pledge—or just enough people to fill a London Tube carriage at rush hour.

Cameron insisted, “Britain has fulfilled our moral obligations”. Scottish minister Humza Yousaf called it a “proud day” for Scotland.

Despite the tiny numbers, the Tories are trying to use these Syrians as a fig leaf for a policy that’s mainly about kicking refugees and migrants out.

The Home Office has used specially chartered mass deportation flights for 12 years at a rate of at least one a week.

A chartered plane full of deportees to Nigeria leaves every two months—the next was set to take off on Tuesday of this week.

Jimmy Mubenga died in 2010 on a similar flight that was repatriating him to Angola.

And it is big business—the Home Office is currently retendering a contract for “Escorting and Travel Services” worth an estimated £500 million.


Socialist Worker has uncovered barely reported figures for the first six months of this year. They reveal that Britain “forcibly removed” 6,189 people.

Adding those who “voluntarily” follow government orders to leave rather than risk going through this ordeal, some 26,000 were kicked out.

And the number of people held in detention centres increased by 11 percent since last year, to 3,418 at a time. Another 15,694 people spent time in these refugee jails.

The government has tried to head off the pressure to act on the refugee crisis by making Syrians seem like a special case. But 387 Syrians were among the detainees, including six children—and 163 were kicked out of Britain.

As for the Syrians arriving, there’s a limit to how welcome they are made to feel. Home secretary Theresa May stressed that they are being “security” vetted and having their biometric details put on file, treating them as suspected terrorists by default.

Only 46 councils have agreed to take any in—though some that refused, such as Portsmouth, faced protests as a result.

New minister for Syrian refugees Richard Harrington said, “We are trying not to do big cities”—the places new migrants would be most likely to choose to live in search of jobs.

The few refugees the Tories have let in are welcome. But there is too little to celebrate—and much more to be angry about.

‘We had no way to defend ourselves from the regime’

Ali Isa Hasan

Ali Isa Hasan

Ali Isa Hasan fled Bahrain in November 2011 after being involved in mass protests against the regime—his father was tortured in the counter-revolution.

Four members of Ali’s family were granted asylum in September 2011.

He now has no family left in Bahrain—but he was refused asylum.

“I found out the day I was about to be flown back to Bahrain that the flight had been cancelled because the Home Office had agreed to review my case for asylum.

I was seriously thinking about how to kill myself rather than die at the hands of my enemy. I didn’t want to just give myself over to be killed. I was so stressed and depressed.

I was in the detention centre at Gatwick for four months.

When we first protested in 2011 we were mostly young and all we were asking was for our freedom. We were peaceful.

But the regime killed people. They brought in Saudi and Qatari forces too. So we went higher, we called for the fall of the regime.


But they destroyed us. We had no way to defend ourselves against tanks and guns.

Many of those young people who protested back in 2011 are dead or in prison.

Every day people die in prison. There is no proper food, no safe water, no health care. There are just big underground rooms filled with people. Your family has to fight for months just to get a visit.

I have sickle cell anaemia. I would not survive. I cannot take punches to my stomach because of my swollen liver.

If my country was ok I would never have become a refugee.

I still hope for change. Maybe my generation will suffer and it will be won by future generations.

British people need to know what happened to so many young people in Bahrain. That is why we need asylum.

The right to asylum should be about human life.”

Glasgow border cops raid Lin home

Border cops raided the Lin family home in Glasgow two weeks ago. Min Lin and her two children were arrested and flown straight to Heathrow, for transfer to Beijing.

She called her husband Kefei from the airport. He said, “She was handcuffed. The children taken away. They were crying.”

Defend Abdul Rahman Haroun

Abdul Rahman Haroun was charged with “obstructing a railway carriage or engine” after walking through the Channel Tunnel from Calais.

This has been used to deny him asylum.

Send letters to Abdul Rahman Haroun, PN A0964CX, HM Prison Elmley, Church Road, Kent ME12 4DZ. If possible, include a £5 postal order for phone calls, made out to “The Governor”. On the back write “Abdul Rahman Haroun PN A0964CX” and your name

Send solidarity to Calais camp

An Afghan man aged 19 was hit by a train at the French port of Cherbourg last week. A second man died on the road near Dunkirk.

Stand up to Racism is taking solidarity donations on Saturday 12 December.

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