UPDATE: 22 February
Reported in the Salisbury Journal that Reza in ‘in a really bad place’ physically and mentally. See the Journal article.
A Salisbury refugee has been arrested and is under threat of deportation
A refugee who has been living in Salisbury for 2 years was back in the news this week following his arrest in Melksham. He was scheduled to be deported back to Afghanistan, the second most dangerous country in the world according to the FCO.
Reza Magsoudi fled Afghanistan in 2004 when he was 13 and travelled alone to the UK. Early in November 2017 he was summoned to Melksham police station for the routine procedure of declaring his whereabouts in the UK, whereupon he was arrested. He was taken to Tinsley House in Gatwick from where he was due to be deported.
He was granted leave to remain in 2008 and has applied for asylum but for the most part without legal assistance. His English is said to be poor. There is now to be a judicial review. A Change.org petition has achieved 73,000 signatures.
He has been supported during his stay in Salisbury by Derri Southwood who has had considerable difficulty in making contact since his incarceration in Gatwick. BBC Wiltshire had several pieces on this topic on their morning show this week and a reporter has gained access to Tinsley House but was unable to tape an interview with him.
The case raises a number of issues concerning asylum policy in the UK and highlights the country’s poor record in offering a home to those fleeing war-torn countries. The UK does however contribute a great deal of aid to those countries who have high levels of refugees but is reluctant to help those who come here.
Part of the reason is the myth that large numbers of people are ‘flooding’ into the country. The facts do not support this myth. Countries such as Turkey, Pakistan and Jordan have a much, much higher numbers in their countries out of a world wide population of around 14 million refugees. By contrast, in quarter 2 of this year for example, there were 6,172 applications for asylum of which 65% were refused. This sort of statistic is fairly constant quarter by quarter (Source: Refugee Council). This is a tiny number of people in view of the world wide figure yet the impression created by some sections of the media is that we are somehow the principal port of call for refugees.
The UK no longer has a welcoming attitude to refugees and successive policies have sought to make it tougher and tougher to achieve leave to remain. An analysis of statistics and policy by four newspapers (Guardian; Le monde; Der Spiegel and El Pais) found that:
The analysis found that Britain takes fewer refugees, offers less generous financial support, provides housing that is often substandard, does not give asylum seekers the right to work, has been known to punish those who volunteer and routinely forces people into destitution and even homelessness when they are granted refugee status due to bureaucratic delays.
This was worse than any other country except Italy.
What is often overlooked in these debates is that the reason why there is conflict and a country riven by war is partly the result of our colonial and imperial activities in the past. Most obviously the Israeli and Palestinian conflict; the division of lands in the middle east after the fall of the Ottoman Empire following the Great War; the Yemen conflict today where we continue to sell arms to the Saudis causing enormous hardship to the people there, and our invasion of Libya which has led to instability, violence and also allowed people smugglers to prosper. So we had a major historical impact and continue to do so by supplying arms which increases the level of conflict.
Looking at the below the line comments in the Salisbury Journal article, one gets a taste of the vitriol that the whole question of refugees generates. Someone who calls him or herself ‘art91e’ says:
He has no right to be here, he serves no useful purpose, he’s illiterate after 13 years here, so he certainly did not do an apprenticeship … that is a lie! Send him home asap.
The great majority of comments were sympathetic however.
Mr Glen, the Salisbury MP, has become involved and has promised to make contact with the minister’s office and to do what he can. The problem – not unique to MPs like Mr Glen – is that the Home Office is carrying out government policy which has been supported by him. It illustrates the problem of myths in the media being left unchallenged but which have a huge influence on how people think. This drives policy and has created a harsh environment for asylum seekers. They have become a problem best solved by keeping them out in the first place and then throwing them out if at all possible if they do make it here.
We await developments.
Don’t forget to visit our refugee photo exhibition in the Library which is running until the end of December. Please sign or comment in the visitor’s book if you do go. Follow us on Facebook and Twitter, Salisburyai.
We shall be card signing in the Library passage on Saturday morning 16th between 10 and noon.