Archive for the ‘Afghanistan’ Category


UPDATE: 26 January

There is now a Change.org petition highly critical of the government and the lack of any response from the Home office minister Caroline Nokes,  The comments are worth reading and mostly supportive of his case.

UPDATE: January 25: 15:30

Reza now in Afghanistan  Salisbury Journal 25th

UPDATE: January 23, 18:00

Reza is reported to be in Kabul see https://www.change.org/p/home-office-stop-deportation-of-reza-to-afghanistan

UPDATE: January 22, 18:00

Latest news is the Reza is due to be deported at any moment.

 

Further developments with Reza Maghsoudi

Readers may recall an earlier post about a refugee from Afghanistan who has been living in this country for some years and Salisbury for 2, who went to Melksham police station for a routine appointment, whereupon he was arrested and sent to a Detention Centre prior to a planned deportation.  Reza Maghsoudi gained some local publicity and there was a follow-up item on BBC Wiltshire last month.

In today’s Salisbury Journal (4 January 2018), the Salisbury MP Mr Glen, in his View from the Commons piece, devotes some space to Reza’s case:

I was in my office at 9am on January 2nd to plan my latest intervention on behalf of Reza Maghsoudi, the young Afghan national who is facing deportation.  His many allies in Salisbury have been fighting compassionately and tirelessly to help him regularize his immigration status so that he can continue with his life he has built here – the dear friends he has made and the skills he has learned.

A decision is due and I have been keen to once again to ensure that the case in on the personal radar of the minister so that the significant new evidence that has come to light in recent week can be taken into account.

This is of course encouraging and we hope that the combination of publicity and political pressure bear fruit.

Why are we here?

But why do we have a situation like this in the first place?  Why do we have a series of policies whereby someone like Reza is held in a detention centre and is under constant threat of deportation?  The answer of course is because for some years now the government has pursued aggressive policies in an attempt to reduce immigration.  These have included:

  • plans to reduce immigration to the ‘tens of thousands’
  • tightening of work visa eligibility
  • greater scrutiny of students concerning their eligibility to stay and study
  • reducing benefits to the lowest level in Europe
  • provision of sub-standard housing and is what the home affairs sub-committee described as ‘disgraceful’.
  • introducing bureaucratic delays which regularly force people into destitution according to the Refugee Council.

The benefit reductions came about because it was claimed by David Cameron, when he was the prime minister, that our benefits were a ‘magic pull’ to people wishing to come here.  There was no evidence for this.  This led to cuts trumpeted to save £500m.  These attitudes have been stirred up by some of the media who have great influence on government policy.  One media commentator called refugees ‘cockroaches’ in the Daily Mail for example.  Despite research evidence to show that immigrants are of net benefit to the UK economy, politicians and some media editors constantly refer to them as a ‘problem’ and a drain on the economy.  They are seen as another form of scrounger.  People seeking asylum – like Reza – have been conflated with immigration as a deliberate policy (Migration Policy).

So Reza is a small part of a concerted programme of demonizing immigrants and asylum seekers by legal restrictions, benefit reductions and detaining them in detention centres.  It is interesting to contrast the plans being prepared by Mr Glen in the Salisbury Journal piece with a rather different speech he made in the House Of Commons:

One aspect of that reform, referred to in the Queen’s Speech, is access to benefits for immigrants. It is right that the Government are considering limiting access to housing benefit and health care for people who have not earned the right to it. It is not enough to keep ignoring that uncomfortable truth because we are frightened of being too right wing, too nasty or too unpleasant. The routine experience of people up and down this country is that on the front line, at the point of delivery and at the point of receiving public services, they are too often displaced by people who, apparently, should not have the right to access those services. I am pleased that the Government will address that in legislation.   (Source: Theyworkforyou.com, May 2013 Queen’s Speech debate (our highlight)

Mr Reza’s case is not about benefits but it is about the attitudes of a government who have adopted an aggressive approach based upon misinformation and media attacks.  We wish Reza every success.

xenophobic-headlines

Sources: BBC; fullfacts.org; Refugee Council; Migration Policy; UCL; Guardian; Independent

 

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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.

Issues

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.


Britain’s role in Afghanistan is coming to an after over a decade of bloodshed and war.  It is doubtful that the country is in a fit state to function effectively since the Taliban and the warlords are still very much in evidence and there are reports of ISIS being present in the country as well.  After all this time it is easy to forget some of the original aims which were defeating terrorism and the Taliban.  We can also forget that it was the CIA who helped establish, arm and train the Taliban in order to assist them in their fight with the Russians.

One of the major victims of the years of war is women.  It has turned thousand of Afghan women into refugees and widows – or both – and made it dangerous for them to seek schooling, go out to work, get healthcare or secure paid employment.  Before the arrival of the Taliban in 1996, women’s rights had steadily improved and indeed, there are many photographs from that era women and girls in schools and university with not a burqa or veil in sight.  Improving the rights of women became one of the additional aims of the invasion and it will be recalled that Cherie Blair – wife of the then Prime Minister, Tony Blair – hosted an event in 10, Downing Street in 2001 with this aim in mind.  Kofi Annan said:

There cannot be true peace and recovery in Afghanistan without a restoration of the rights of women.

Similar sentiments were expressed by the then secretary of state Colin Powell:

The recovery of Afghanistan must entail a restoration of the rights of women, indeed it will not be possible without them.

Abdul Hakim Hashemi  Hademi

Abdul Hakim Hashemi Hademi

At the South West regional conference of Amnesty International it was heartening to hear from someone who has worked to improve the status of women through theatre and artistic groups in the countryside.  The speaker was Abdul Hakim Hashemi Hamidi who set up the Simorgh Film Association of Culture and Art, SFACA.  Unlike many aid programmes which tend to stay in Kabul or the main cities, SFACA goes out into the countryside and to the villages.

He has organised educational theatre workshops in prisons, juvenile correction centres, drug addiction rehabilitation centres, in schools and with the police.  He has produced films with an emphasis on human rights and the role of women.

Not all the problems faced by women are solely to do with the Taliban. Another factor is honour killings which are at a very high rate in the country.  57% are identified as the responsibility of a family member and 21% by the husband.  The perpetrator of 43% killings is unclear however.  A telling quote from the PowerPoint display was:

A problem with women [is] because men don’t accept women have rights

He went on to discuss the problems of human rights defenders in Afghanistan. These included difficulty in

Delegates at the South West Region conference

Delegates at the South West Region conference

travelling to some areas combined with a lack of government control in some parts of the country, traditional beliefs and illiteracy.  Religion was a main cause he said and human rights are seen as a western construct.  He urged that the UK government consider the role of human rights defenders in their discussions with the Afghans.

It was an interesting and uplifting talk by someone who has taken risks to go into the Afghanistan countryside to promote the rights of women.  Abdul is a visiting fellow on the Protective Fellowship Scheme for Human Rights Defenders at York UniversityThere is a permanent link to the York University Centre for Applied Human Rights at the bottom of the main page.

Sources:

Watson Institute

Global Research

Amnesty International


This is the monthly death penalty report thanks to Lesley.

General

  • UK
  • 19th Sept – A Death Row Pop Up Restaurant offering a ‘last meal without the nasty execution bit’ was due to open in No to the death penaltyHoxton, London.  Condemned by Amnesty as ‘in appallingly bad taste’, the owners initially issued an apology but later withdrew it, saying ‘all over the world there are attractions that have the potential to offend’
  • LC spoke with Kate Allen at the recent Stop Torture Campaign Skills Day and raised the Group’s concern that the Death Penalty was no longer a distinct campaign.   Kate noted our concern, but said AI needed to look more to local groups to take the campaign forward. 
  • Pakistan – Mohammed Asghar, the British Pakistani 70 year old with paranoid schizophrenia, sentenced to death for ‘blasphemy’ was shot and badly injured in his prison cell by a prison guard. There is an on-line 38 Degrees Petition calling on David Cameron to press his case with the Pakistan Government.
  • USA
  • 21st September – the third anniversary of the execution of the execution of Troy Davis.  An excerpt from the statement issued by the National Coalition for the Abolition of the Death Penalty reads: ‘……. I am Troy Davis. And we are 90 million strong. You, Xxxxx, are Troy Davis, and we are 90 million stronger – because of you. Together we are building the ground-game state by state and nationwide to fulfil Troy’s wishes: to keep fighting this battle until we end the death penalty once and for all.’
  • Texas – News today (9 October) that Manuel Velez was released from prison following 6 years on Death Row and 9 years in prison. Convicted and sentenced to death in 2008 for the killing of his girlfriend’s child, in 2012 his death sentence was thrown out because of false testimony during the sentencing phase.  A new trial was ordered because of inadequate legal assistance in his original trial.  The DA’s office continue to maintain, however, that he contributed to the child’s death.  See a separate post on this subject. 
  • Afghanistan – Despite attempts by AI and other Human Rights Organisations to persuade the new President, Ashraf Ghani, to stop the execution of 5 men convicted of rape, they were hanged on 8th October.  There were accusations of a lack of evidence and forced confessions. 

Death Penalty Statistics for 2013

  • 778 executions were known to have been carried out in 22 countries
  • 1,925 people in 57 countries were known to have been sentenced to death
  • 23,392 people were known to have been on death row world-wide
  • These figures do not include the thousands of executions likely to have taken place in China where they are a state secret.

Urgent Actions

  • Iran – UA 85/14 – (update) Reyhaneh Jabbari – her execution date of 30th September was deferred, but she remains at risk as the family of the man killed (who Reyhaneh claims sexually assaulted her) could request her execution at any time.  David Cameron has spoken out on her behalf to President Rouhani, and been criticised for ‘unacceptable remarks’.  Circulated to DPLWG; posted on the Group’s blog – 1.10.14. This month’s Group Urgent Action.
  • Bahrain – UA 252/14 – Maher Abbas Ahmad – sentenced to death in February for the premeditated murder of a policeman at a ‘gathering’, has lodged his final appeal and could be at risk of execution. He told his lawyer he was tortured into making a confession. Circulated to DPLWG 9.10.14.

Campaigning

  • World Day Against the Death Penalty – 10th October.   The Group are asked to sign cards to be sent to Reggie Clemons
  • Death Penalty Stall – A signing event will take place on Saturday ll1th October from 9.00-12..00 mid-day in the Library Covered Way. We will be asking the public to sign cards calling for justice for Moses Akatugba, the young Nigerian tortured and sentenced to death for the alleged theft of three mobile phones.