After fleeing war, racism and repression in Syria, Turkey and across Europe, Hussein, his mother and younger brother arrived in Britain via a hazardous journey almost four months ago.
But as campaigners and local people welcomed them to east London, the authorities were preparing to expel them. Now the Home Office has sent a letter threatening Hussein with deportation to Rwanda in Africa.
Hussein, 24 years old, fled Damascus in Syria six years ago. Speaking to Socialist Worker he said, “There’s no life for Syrians. My father died in prison—imprisoned because he wanted to be free.”
One of the key reasons Hussein left was to avoid being drafted into Syrian dictator Bashar al-Assad’s army. “He wants people to kill others,” Hussein said.
After escaping Syria with his mother and brother, who was aged just 13 at the time, the family arrived in Turkey where they spent five years. But they were not safe there. “If you have no ID, they deport you,” Hussein explained. The right wing Turkish government in recent years has launched a brutal mass deportation programme, deporting those even with relevant documents.
Hussein said, “There was racism in work, in the street—if they hear you speak Arabic you’re not safe.” Fearful of violence and deportation back to the Damascus war zone, Hussein’s family spent six months attempting to enter Greece in cars and trucks. They were sent back to Turkey many times as Fortress Europe rejected them.
The family eventually made it to France, spending six months in the Calais Jungle and Dunkirk. Life there was “very bad,” said Hussein. “The police target refugees,” he added.
Hussein escaped the inhumanity of the Jungle and boarded a “small plastic boat”. “It took five or six hours to get to British waters,” he said.
“It was scary, I had to get water out of the boat constantly.” Eventually, he was rescued by the British coastguard and brought to Dover.
The horrific memory of the Channel crossing—made harder by racist border controls—has not escaped his memory.
As recently departed home secretary Suella Braverman “dreams” of a Rwanda deportation, local campaigners have vowed to end the hostile system. They have organised a “Hussein must stay” campaign and protest.
Many refugees have been sent the same letter as Hussein—all the deportations have to be opposed. But in Hussein’s case, the Home Office is breaking its own rules.
The Home Office’s Equality Impact Assessment of the Rwanda Policy says, “Families will not be separated by sending only some family members to Rwanda but not others.”
Rwanda isn’t a safe country, nor is it one Hussein is familiar with. This is the reality of the Tories’ hostile environment.
Racist Tories are willing to break up families, leaving Hussein in grave danger and his mother and brother heartbroken. It won’t end refugees seeking asylum in Britain, it will just make the journey more dangerous.
And the recent comments from Labour’s shadow chancellor Rachel Reeves that “The problem is the government are not deporting people today” will only push the government to still more brutal measures.
Campaigners must fight deportations and continue to call for the racist borders to fall.
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