Sunday, August 25, 2013

Another Syrian Story

"Before I came to the UK, I thought your government was so good. William Hague visited Syrian refugees in the camps in Jordan last month and was so nice to them. But here things are different. I'm an innocent person who escaped because I was exposing human rights abuses. I didn't expect to start my life in the UK with a criminal record. The government granted me refugee status very quickly yet they continued to lock me up."

Roudi Chikhi had been secretly filming atrocities carried out by the Bashar al-Assad government and smuggling his footage out to al-Jazeera, YouTube and other media outlets. Then, when someone tipped off the Syrian government about his activities, he was forced to flee.

He arrived at Gatwick airport travelling on a false Canadian passport last December. The 28-year-old Kurd was then put in a police cell, taken before magistrates, convicted of travelling on false documents and given a one-year sentence. His savings of $3,500 (£2,619) were confiscated under the Proceeds of Crime Act.

Under the Geneva Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, asylum seekers have a defence for using false documents if they have no other option. Two years ago, the government admitted that almost 500 asylum seekers had been convicted of false document offences between 2009 and 2011.

The criminal cases review commission has described these cases as "a significant and potentially widespread misunderstanding or abuse of the law"

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