From British daily The Guardian:
Iraqi sewed up mouth in failed bid to avoid deportation
* Alan Travis, home affairs editor
* Tuesday 16 December 2008
A Kurdish asylum seeker who sewed up his mouth in an attempt to avoid being returned to Iraq last week had the stitches forcibly removed and was still put on the plane the next day, it emerged yesterday.
He was among 49 rejected asylum seekers who were put on a special charter flight to northern Iraq last Wednesday, which took off six hours late from Stansted and was forced to return to Britain after being refused permission to land in Iraq.
The flight’s take-off was delayed because two asylum seekers had to be removed from the cabin. One had smuggled a blade on board and slashed his stomach, while a second concussed himself by banging his head against the window.
A witness on the plane said many of the 76 Group 4 Securicor guards who accompanied the deportees were shocked by what happened. Some deportees were in handcuffs and others in leg irons.
They had been taken to Stansted airport from Dover and Colnbrook immigration detention centres in preparation for the midday flight in an old French charter plane. After leaving six hours late, it stopped at Bucharest for refuelling before going on to Irbil in northern Iraq. It arrived at 3am in clear and calm conditions, but made several passes before returning to Turkey because of “bad weather”. The plane and its passengers arrived back at Stansted 31 hours after leaving the UK.
Hassan Muhammad Kochar, one of the deportees, said: “We were taken to Irbil, the plane was circling in the air. After three circles the plane turned round and landed in Turkey. We waited there for an hour and a half. The guards said they’d take us to Kurdistan, but they didn’t. Then we went to Romania. They told us they’d send us back, but they didn’t. They said it was because of the weather, but that doesn’t make sense.”
Michael Woolley, of the Visitors Group at Haslar immigration detention centre, Portsmouth, said one reason for the protests was the widely held belief that three men who had recently been returned to northern Iraq had all died. He also said that one deportee had been in England since 1999 and had an English partner and three children.
A UK Border Agency spokesman refused to comment on the flight but said that returns to northern Iraq were enforced when officials were satisfied that it was safe to do so.
The fresh details about the attempt to fly the Kurds home came as the former Tory leader Iain Duncan Smith said rejected asylum seekers who were unable to return home should be allowed to work and have access to healthcare.
“The policy of making asylum seekers destitute is mean and nasty and has not worked,” said Duncan Smith in a report by the Centre for Social Justice. The report estimates that at least 26,000 failed asylum seekers in the UK are surviving on Red Cross food parcels.
Kenyan asylum seeker in Britain: ‘I fear for my life if I am deported’: here.
New Labour’s asylum policies are cruel and unjust: here.
Australia: Nurse slams conditions at Nauru ‘concentration camp’: here.
- Private prison firms look to cash in on Canada asylum crackdown (guardian.co.uk)
- Detainee condemns ‘slaughterhouse’ Nauru (abc.net.au)
- Deaths in Australian immigration detention centres (radioadelaidebreakfast.wordpress.com)
- Nauru asylum detainees on hunger strike (bigpondnews.com)