Tuesday, 20 October 2009

Baghdad Flight Fallout

The fallout from last week's farcical deportation flight to Baghdad is gradually increasing as more and more information trickles out from the returned Iraqi deportees, together with the news that some of their number, along with other detainees, have gone on hunger strike at the Brook House detention centre at Gatwick Airport.

In interviews with journalists and from International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) sources, the deportees have alleged that they were beaten by some of the approximately 100 G4S security guards on the flight, both after they had been turned back at Baghdad Airport and when they refused to change flights at an Italian airport on the return journey.

Other allegations include: no Arabic translator on board the plane, so that the UKBA officials could not converse properly with the Iraqi officials that came on board the plane when it landed; the Commander of Baghdad airport threatened to destroy plane if it didn't turn around and go back to UK once it had been refuelled; and during the 6,000 mile enforced round trip the Iraqi deportees had no food at all for the entire 12 hours.

Now, some of those returned have gone on hunger strike demanding they are released. The Home Office have of course said that the G4S-run Brook House was "operating normally" and that "there is no suggestion of this protest taking place at Brook House." Which is obviously a PR-speak non-denial denial, given the statement released by the hunger strikers via IFIR:

‘The reason we are going on hunger strike is because the UK government’s immigration policies are very poor. We have been in detention centres for months and years and our cases have not been handled professionally. We are all locked up in detention, which is exactly like a prison, but most of us have never committed any crime whatsoever. An ACD category prisoner gets better treatment than we do.

We are going on hunger strike until they release us. We have families who depend on us, wives and children who need our support.

Most of us are being falsely removed to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, which are clearly war zones. Most of us have families in the UK. What are we supposed to do? Leave them behind or take them with us right into the middle of a war zone to be killed?

The immigration laws and policies are clearly not fair and the only way you will find this out is by visiting us here in detention. Even most of the G4S security staff think that immigration policies need to change for the better.

We need a system that will give us chance to live in peace.’

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