Tuesday, September 08, 2020

The Shame of the UK

A British woman living in Spain who helped 11 Syrian asylum seekers who were left homeless and hungry on the streets of Madrid after being forcibly removed from the UK has said she is ashamed of the UK government’s behaviour. The group were left destitute after being put on a flight to Madrid by the Home Office last week. They had arrived in the UK in small boats from Calais and are part of a Home Office plan to remove almost 1,000 such arrivals.

“As a UK citizen I am ashamed that our government would leave asylum seekers on the streets with absolutely no support. As I see it the only difference between me and this group of people is luck. And if I was ever so unlucky as to find myself in a similar situation I hope that someone with more luck would be willing to help me.”

As refugees who fled the conflict in Syria they have strong grounds to receive international protection. However, under EU legislation known as the Dublin regulation, an asylum seeker who is confirmed to have passed through another safe European country before reaching a second country such as the UK, may be returned to the first country, although issues such as torture, trafficking and family ties should be considered before removal from a second country takes place. All but one of them say they were removed from the UK without having their identity documents returned to them, a matter Home Office sources said they were looking into.

A network of human rights and anti-racist campaigners are supporting the asylum seekers in Madrid after visiting them outside the airport on Thursday night.

On that first night some of the 11 slept on the streets, a few bedded down in a social centre and the youngest one, who told the Guardian he was 17, slept on the living room floor of one of the activists’ homes. “I asked him what he needed and he said that all he wanted was to phone his mum.”

Toufique Hossain of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, who has represented asylum seekers who arrived in the UK on small boats, said: “The home secretary’s own data overwhelmingly shows that our clients are who they say they are: torture survivors, victims of trafficking, fleeing persecution. They are refugees and they have legitimate reasons to have their claims considered in the UK.”


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