On 18 May 2004, 27-year-old Afghan asylum seeker Zekria Ghulam Mohammed was found dead at his flat in the Dennistoun area of Glasgow.
Zekria apparently took his own life and was found by a friend who had to break the door down to gain entry to the flat. Zekria, who had been living in Scotland for four years, was awaiting a decision on his asylum claim and was living in accommodation provided by the National Asylum Support Service.
Positive Action in Housing, a housing charity based in Scotland that helps asylum seekers and refugees, has called for a public inquiry into the death. Positive Action in Housing’s director, Robina Qureshi, commented: ‘We are concerned about what happened to this man and why the Home Office won’t disclose its relationship with him. We are very worried that there could be an increase in attempted suicides amongst Glasgow’s 8,000 asylum seeker population.’
PAIH says that, on several occasions, people have come to its offices who are absolutely destitute and under threat of deportation. ‘These people would rather kill themselves here than go back to their countries and face imprisonment, torture or death,’ said Robina Qureshi. ‘We should be concerned about what happened to this man and find out the circumstances of his death. We suspect the man committed suicide by hanging himself.’
This apparent suicide comes a week after a Yorkshire coroner criticised the ‘reprehensible’ situation which led to 29-year-old Iranian, Sirous Khajehb, to take his own life in Huddersfield on Christmas Eve 2002. He had wrongly been told that his asylum claim had been refused and he faced deportation.
The IRR has recorded at least 14 other suicides by victims of the asylum system in the last four years:
- Glynnis Cowley, a South African mother of three, committed suicide in Liverpool in 2000, after her asylum claim was rejected.
- Robertas Grabys, a 49-year-old Lithuanian asylum-seeker, hanged himself at Harmondsworth Detention Centre in 2000.
- On 21 December 2000, Saeed Alaei, a 26-year-old Iranian, living in Nelson, Lancashire, was found hanged after the rejection of his asylum claim.
- On 18 January 2001, the body of Shokrolah ‘Ramin’ Khaleghi, a 26-year-old Iranian who had been a political prisoner in Iran, was discovered in the International Hotel, a hostel for asylum seekers in Leicester. He had committed suicide a week after the rejection of his asylum claim.
- On 20 January 2001, an unnamed Kosovan was discovered on a ferry travelling from Ostend to Dover. At Dover he was put back on a ferry to deport him to Calais. But he jumped from the ship to his death.
- Nasser Ahmed, a 36-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker who had settled in Nelson, Lancashire, was found hanged in August 2001, shortly after being refused permission to stay in the UK.
- On 1 January 2002, 28-year-old Souleyman Diallo jumped 100 feet to his death from Redheugh Bridge, Tyneside, because he was to be deported back to Guinea.
- On 12 March 2002, Mohsen Amri, a 27-year-old Iranian, took his own life at his home in Handsworth, Birmingham. His asylum application had been refused on a technicality.
- On 7 May 2002, Shiraz Pir, a 25-year-old Afghan living in a Bristol hostel, was found hanged, but still alive. He died five days later in Bristol Royal infirmary. His application for refugee status had been refused.
- On 24 December 2002, Iranian Sirous Khajeh was found hanged at his home in Huddersfield after mistakenly being told his asylum claim had been refused. A coroner criticised the Home Office’s handling of the 29-year-old’s asylum claim.
- 42-year-old Ukrainian asylum seeker, Mikhail Bognarchuk, was found hanged by his shoelaces in a toilet at Haslar Removal Centre on 31 January 2003. He was due to be deported that day to Ukraine.
- Israfil Shiri, an asylum seeker from Iran, died four days after setting himself alight in the offices of Refugee Action in Manchester in August 2003. Israfil had been thrown out of his Salford council flat and had been denied benefits. He told his friends that he would do something to prove that ‘this government cares more about animals than people fleeing torture and persecution’.
- On 4 September 2003, 32-year-old Tema Kombe, a Ugandan asylum seeker was found hanged in the toilet of a psychiatric ward at Heatherwood hospital, Ascot.
- On 20 October 2003, 20-year-old Mohammed bin Duhri, a Palestinian asylum seeker, was found hanged at Belmarsh maximum security prison. Three prison officers were suspended after they allegedly filed reports saying he was alive and well when he was already dead.