UK resident for 20 years, one of ‘up to 50’ facing deportation to Iraq

Comp shows the interior and exterior of the Colnbrook Immigration Removal Center

Iraqi nationals detained at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Center have just a week to fight Home Office (Images: Getty)

A married man who has lived in England for 20 years is one of “up to 50 people” facing deportation to Iraq next week.

If the The Interior Ministry’s charter flight to Erbil International Airport will take place on May 31, it would be the first from the UK in at least a decade, according to the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BiD). has seen the eviction orders of three people in central Colnbrook, next to Heathrow Airport, who were all alerted last week, leaving them just days to organize legal representation.

One of the detainees, who wishes to remain anonymous, has lived in north-west England since 2002 and has made a life of his own since escaping torture in Iraq.

His wife and four stepchildren all supported him during his failed asylum application.

Fighting back from his cell in tears, the 39-year-old said: “Forget everything else, taking me away from my family is the worst.

“I had a really bad childhood and I always dreamed of having a normal family and a normal life.

The Colnbrook Immigration Removal Center houses up to 360 immigrant detainees whose deportation is imminent after being denied asylum or entering the country illegally (Image: Getty)

“I’m from Iraq and I saw the war, the torture and the killings and I came here to try and build a small family.

“Will I die there? Will I ever see my family again? I think about that all the time.’

He continued, “Sometimes I think about hanging myself to end it all. It’s so hard I can’t even breathe. The pain is unbearable.

“We’re all human, but I feel like there’s no such thing as humanity. Just because I’m from Iraq doesn’t mean I’m not human. I’m locked in this room and I can’t breathe, there’s not even a window.’

He was previously detained in 2017, 2018 and 2019, each time spending four to five weeks incarcerated in immigration deportation centers and being treated “just like a terrorist”.

Arriving hidden in a lorry at the age of 19, he had no idea what life would be like in England – he lived with the fear that every knock on the door would be from immigration officers.

Despite having a dream family, he is legally barred from working and the financial burden is left to his 65-year-old wife, who is self-employed.

He also has to report to his local police station every week – an appointment he says he never missed – and has even become friends with the officers there.

He has described the last five years he spent fighting the Home Office as “torture” and added that his GP prescribed him medication for depression.

The thought of his future and the looming possibility of being deported to Iraq, where he has no family or friends, worsened his mental health while he was incarcerated in Colnbrook.

“I remember tanks, helicopters, constant war and people being blown up in front of me,” said the prisoner, recalling his childhood.

“My family was killed in a bomb attack in 2006, four years after I left. I lost my mother, sister and brother that day.

Colnbrook Immigration Removal Center

Previously, the Iraqi national was detained in 2017, 2018 and 2019 (Image: Getty)

“If I am sent back, I will be tortured and killed.”

After being arrested last week, he has learned of “up to 50” more Iraqis being held at Brook House and Harmondsworth who, like him, have received deportation orders from the Home Office.

Activists are already working to halt the flight with the very limited time they have until next Tuesday when the plane is expected to depart.

BiD, which challenges immigration detention, has so far been contacted by four men, some of whom have lived in the UK for decades and have families here who are being torn apart by their deportation.

Director Annie Viswanathan stressed that many no longer have ties to a country “torn by tyranny, invasion and protracted conflict”.

“We speak to people who fear for their lives if they are sent back to Iraq, including torture survivors,” she added.

The Home Office insisted the new immigration plan will fix the ‘broken system’ (Image: PA)

“Although the Home Office has known about this flight for many weeks, the Home Office only issued people their moving slips last weekend – just over a week before the flight and on a day when the solicitors are not working.

“In an attempt to deport as many people as possible on this single flight, the Home Office appears to be blocking access to justice.

“We are impressed by the organizing work of the currently detained Iraqi nationals who come together to raise awareness of injustice.”

That comes just a week later A charter flight to Jamaica took off with seven people on board after dozens of others were granted a last-minute legal stay.

A 2020 Public Accounts Committee (PAC) report found that the significant lack of diversity at senior levels of the Home Office means the lack of “a wide range of perspectives in making rules and evaluating the human impact of its decisions.” .

When an organization has blind spots, professional judgment cannot be relied on, and the Windrush scandal has shown the damage such a culture can do, the document says.

The Ministry of the Interior does not comment on individual cases.

A statement said: “We make no apologies for the removal of foreign criminals and those who are ineligible to stay in the UK.

“The public rightly expects this and that is why we regularly operate flights to different countries.

“People will only be repatriated if the Home Office and, where appropriate, the courts deem it safe to do so.

“The new immigration plan will fix the broken immigration system and speed up the removal of those who have no right to be here.”

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Justin Scacco

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