Saturday, 17 October 2009

Daytrip To Baghdad II

Here's the story: You've been in the UK for a while after fleeing your home country because foreigners have turned it into a war zone. You've possibly also applied for asylum, been turned down and then one day you've been picked up by the UK Borders Agency, off the street or when you went to sign on for the weekly allowance, that has just been cut back to a level that barely helps keep body and soul together. Or maybe being destitute you've had to steal to stop yourself or your nearest and dearest from starving and you've ended up in prison, labelled as a 'foreign criminal'.

Either way you've found yourself in a detention centre with no idea of what is going to happen next. Maybe you've managed to keep in contact with your friends and family, maybe not. Possibly you've had support from a voluntary organisation or you even have an immigration lawyer fighting your corner. Then you are served with a notice of removal, except it doesn't say when you are going to be removed or where they are taking you to. Then early one morning a few days later, the private security guards at the detention centre come and tell you to switch off your phone, maybe they even confiscate it. Now you know that today is the day.

At some point you end up handcuffed between 2 people in uniform, more private security guards, people you have never met before, who drag you off to a waiting coach and then onto a plane at an airport you don't even know the name of. There are forty four of you, all from different detention centres. Some of you may know each other, most of you probably don't. You sit between your 2 guards, who all this time have more or less ignored you, talking over your head. They then tell you that if you are a good boy they will take the handcuffs off, if not then they'll chain you to your seat. The guy 2 seats away is not being given the choice because he had the audacity to question what was happening to him and had received a few hefty kicks to his shins for his troubles, which explains why he was limping quiet badly earlier on.

The Air Italy plane takes off and you still don't know where you are going officially. Maybe we're going to Italy? No such luck! It's obvious that it's going to be Iraq, even the UKBA could not be stupid enough to deport us Iraqis to Afghanistan? But the rumour that's been doing the rounds the most this week is that the flight is going to Baghdad! Surely not? Every one knows it's not safe there, what with the almost daily bombings, the kidnappings and the disappearances. They are mad to try.

When you eventually arrive, it's dark and it is difficult to tell exactly where you are. You must have been in the air least 8 hours but your watch got lost with the rest of your property when they removed you from the detention centre, so you can't be sure. The door opens and 8 men armed with Kalashnikovs get on. Everyone is frightened, even the guards it seems. The one in charge asks the guards, "Why are you here?". When they explains, he tell you all, “Those of you who want to come back, get off. The rest of you stay where you are.” Everyone is confused, no one is quiet sure what to do. Most of you want to go back to Britain but 10 of you leave the plane and are given the $100 you were promised before they put you on the plane.

The plane turns around and flies off. You are left on the tarmac with $100 and no where to go and no real idea why you made such a stupid choice. You could be on the plane on your way back to the country that up until yesterday had been your new home. However, if you were sensible enough to stay on the plane, it's a short stop off in Italy to change planes and back to Brook House and an unknown future waiting till they try to deport you again but hoping that they just let you go free. Some choice!

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