In recent weeks the government has detained at least 70 Iraqi asylum seekers, in preparation for a mass deportation to Baghdad and detainees have been given removal directions for 21 June 2011, at 23:00 hours.
Officials from the Iraqi government are currently visiting detainees to confirm their identities so that they can be deported, as part of an agreement between the two governments. 37 Asylum seekers in Campsfield detention centre have responded with a hunger strike. Today will be its fourth day. Supporters have gathered outside Campsfield to protest against the forced removals.
Many of these asylum seekers have been in the UK for several years, making close friends and starting families. Take Adam Aziz Ali, who is due to be removed on a flight to Baghdad on 20th June. Adam is a Kurdish Iraqi. He has been here for five years, living with his partner, Joanne, in County Durham for almost four years. In that time he has become part of her family. They see him as a son, a brother, and an uncle. They cannot understand why a close member of their family should be removed. The Home Office has judged, rather robotically, that Adam has not developed relationships “beyond normal emotional ties”. His human right to a family life is not being affected “disproportionately”.
Iraq is a rocked by civil unrest: sectarian violence, suicide bombings and, more recently, a bloody backlash against civil rights protests.
The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees has reported that “many of those who have been deported to Iraq in the past are now living in hiding, in fear of the persecution they originally left Iraq to flee. Some have been assassinated. Others have committed suicide only days after being deported or have been kidnapped and killed, while others have had mental breakdowns. Many more have had to leave the country and become refugees again.”
Like Adam, many of the asylum seekers due to be removed are Kurdish. The IFIR has shown particular concern for the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan – a society maligned by corruption, institutional violence and a poverty of basic services such as hospitals and clean water. While protests have been held outside Campsfield, sister protests planned in Kurdistan have been denied permission by the regional government. In Adam’s case, the Home Office suggested that “there is nothing to prevent Joanne from accompanying Mr Ali”. We disagree.
It is clear that the government plan to carry out the removals imminently, unconcerned by the asylum seekers’ right to a family life or by the dangers they will face in Iraq.
Meanwhile the asylum seekers are determined to fight the decision.