This afternoon about thirty people participated in a demonstration of support for two asylum seekers. This demonstration was announced at very short notice after people heard of the plight of these two men. See the original IndyMedia article:
Ahmed and Anan are both from the Kurdish part of Iraq. They fled Kurdistan some years ago and have been resident in Bristol for the last seven years. Their application for asylum was first rejected four years ago and appeals have been in process since. In recent times they have both been obliged to regularly sign on at the Trinity Road police station.
This was how things stood up until last week. As usual Ahmed and Anan turned up at the police station to sign on but, to their horror, were detained by the police. They spent the next five days in the cells at Trinity Road before being transferred to detention centres in different parts of the country. They have been told to expect deportation this Monday 12th February.
Ahmed and Anan were not allowed any time to say good bye to the friends that they have made over the last seven years, to collect their belongings, to prepare for departure in any way. They have been behind bars since the moment they arrived at Trinity Road police station last week. And yet their behaviour with regard to their asylum application has been exemplary throughout their time in Bristol. They have complied with all the demands that the law has made; they also have a reputation as excellent employees. All of this counts for nothing when it comes to matters of immigration.
As part of this afternoon's demonstration the thirty people in attendance met with the Liberal Democrat member for Bristol West, where the two men resided, Stephen Williams. A number of very grave concerns were raised by the demonstrators:
- First of all the serious physical danger that these two men face on their return. They fled Iraq in 2000 because of the danger which resulted from their political opposition to the PUK. Kurdish Iraq is now controlled by the PUK so the danger continues. In addition Amnesty International have released a statement saying that "'forcing people back to Iraq, even to the North, will put people's lives at risk".
- Secondly, the inhuman way in which this deportation has been carried out. Seven years of life in Bristol represents a huge investment of their humanity in the city. They have many friends, they have jobs, they have LIVES. Government interference in these men's lives is grossly immoral, and, given article 8 of the Human Rights Act, very likely illegal.
In addition to concerns for the well-being of these two men there is grave concern about other asylum seekers in the UK. Monday has been earmarked "deportation day" for many Iraqi asylum seekers around the country who have been herded into detention centres awaiting departure for Iraq. It is not known exactly how many people are expecting to be deported; this operation has been largely secret.
Furthermore we must consider the plight of other asylum seekers in the UK who do not know if one day, out of the blue, their life here will be ended. Stephen Williams told us that he was unlikely to be able to affect the situation for these two men as the Home Office had already taken their decision. He counselled other asylum seekers in this country to ensure that they have good legal advice and to get in touch with their local member who may be able to make representations on their behalf.
But, with the possibility of sudden departure hanging over people's heads, how are asylum seekers to adjust positively to life in this country? And how dare this government so disregard the basic humanity of the people involved? The situation is an outrage; an outrage that looks set to cost Ahmed and Anan everything.