A matter of fear or death

A matter of fear or death


Written by: Harmit Athwal

David Blunkett has blamed campaigners for encouraging an Iraqi asylum seeker to sew up his lips.

Naseh Ghafor is a 20-year-old Iraqi man who has been on hunger strike since 8 July. Naseh, who has sewn up his lips, is seriously ill but is refusing treatment because, according to a member of the Sheffield Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers,’it seems he is prepared to die if he can’t have a life without fear’.

Shifting the blame?

But, Home Secretary David Blunkett has blamed campaigners for Naseh’s hunger-strike. In a letter dated 5 August to Sheffield Trades Council, he calls them ‘dangerous and irresponsible’, and goes on to state that they ‘encourage’ asylum seekers ‘to believe that they can simply over turn the process by self-mutilation’. They act ‘in a way which is clearly against the interests of individual asylum seekers,’ he adds ‘I am only sorry that they do not have sufficient concern for Mr Ghafor’s health, wellbeing and safety that they cannot see that using an individual in this was (sic) is both dangerous and unscrupulous.’ But, Naseh’s supporters maintain that they have never encouraged him to do what he has done and want Naseh to end his hunger-strike and accept medical treatment.

Naseh could loose consciousness at any time as he is still refusing treatment. He is basically dying.

Naseh, who had been a shepherd, came to the UK after his father was murdered and his mother and sisters ‘disappeared’ in northern Iraq during the process of ‘Arabisation’. He is living in Sheffield on a friend’s floor after recently being forced from his NASS accommodation after his asylum claim was refused. All financial support has also been withdrawn. He could have accepted support from NASS but that would have meant agreeing to co-operate with removal directions. And this he cannot do. Naseh is terrified that he will be sent back to Iraq where he has no-one and the violence continues.

UNHCR: Iraqi asylum seekers need official protection

Supporters have held a public meeting attended by over 100 people and have planned a number of other events to highlight Naseh’s plight. His supporters are calling for the Home Office to consider Naseh’s new asylum application for temporary humanitarian protection and that the ‘Home Office complies with the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) request that all Iraqi asylum seekers are given some minimum form of official protection in the UK’. Campaigners are also calling for the right to work for all ‘failed’ asylum seekers ‘in limbo’ who cannot return.

The UNHCR has also requested a continued ban on forced returns – including rejected cases – to all parts of Iraq until further notice. It has recommended that all Iraqi asylum seekers continue to be granted some form of temporary protection. The Home Office is ignoring UNHCR’s request.

Related links

National Coalition of Anti Deportation Campaigns

Naseh Ghafor web page

Leaflet on Naseh Ghafor (PDF, 1.2MB)

For further information on the campaign to support Naseh Ghafor please contact: Naseh Ghafor Must Stay Campaign, Sheffield Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers, c/o Sheffield TUC, Sheffield Trades and Labour Club, Talbot Street Entrance, Sheffield S2 2TG. Tel: 07787 146 690.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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