A campaign launched to prevent an Afghan youth from being deported is the latest in a series of vociferous crusades championed by the Kent Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers.
According to the group, many young Afghans, who arrive in the UK as ‘unaccompanied minors’, are being forced to return to their country of origin because it is now deemed ‘safe’ by the government. The protest group is currently fighting to save nineteen-year-old Abdul Majid Amiri from imminent deportation. Majid, a student at Canterbury College, came to the UK in 2002, following the murder of his father and the threat posed to his own life. He has since integrated well into the local community and has worked diligently to overcome linguistic barriers. The Friends of Abdul Majid Amiri group, led by Siobhan Tuppeney and Lauren Hill, which is working in partnership with the Kent Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers, has alleged that the Afghan youth was ‘snatched’ by immigration officials whilst visiting friends in Chatham and is now being held in Tinsley House, awaiting deportation on Saturday 29 October 2005. The stress and anxiety associated with this kind of seizure, coupled with the constant fear of deportation, has exacerbated Majid’s health problems. The group claim that Majid faces a real and palpable threat if forced to return to Afghanistan, citing advice issued by the Foreign Office, which states that there is a ‘continuing high threat from terrorism within Afghanistan’ and that ‘threats, specific or otherwise, are reported on an almost daily basis’. In addition, the Red Cross has been unable to trace any of Majid’s family in Afghanistan, heightening the teenager’s fears about his imminent removal.
The Kent Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers also sought to prevent the deportation of nineteen-year-old Abrahim Rahimi, who became a victim of this immigration ‘snatch’ technique in June. Abrahim, whose father was murdered in Afghanistan, was initially refused asylum because the Home Office raised doubts about the authenticity both of his identity papers and of documents which detailed his father’s membership of the Communist Party. Despite the Afghan Association in Harrow subsequently proving the veracity of these documents, and the launching of a fresh asylum claim by Abrahim’s solicitor, the young Afghan was forced to remain in detention. Kate Adams of the Kent Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers revealed her shock at the manner in which Abrahim was ‘snatched’ in June. She had accompanied him to the local immigration centre, but after waiting thirty minutes for him to re-emerge, learnt that he had been taken to the Dover Holding Centre. She commented: ‘It is terrifying that in a democratic country someone so young and vulnerable can simply disappear. This is a stark illustration of how arbitrary immigration detention is. There are many young Afghans in the network who are now absolutely terrified.’ In August 2005, Abrahim won the right to a judicial review of his asylum claim.
The group experienced some success in its defence of Amin Buratee, an 18-year-old Whitstable student from Afghanistan, who was threatened with deportation in November just months before he was due to sit his A-Level exams. Backed by the local Tory MP, Julian Brazier, student peers, teachers and the Dean of Canterbury Cathedral, Amin was granted a reprieve and allowed to remain in the country to take his exams. In a case which rather depressingly reflects the horrific circumstances of Abrahim Rahimi and Abdul Majid Amiri, Amin had been in the UK for two years following the murders of his father, uncle and brother by the Taleban. After hearing the news of the reprieve, Amin felt ‘fantastic’ and commented that he was ‘so glad’ to be allowed to stay in England.
Currently, the Kent Campaign to Defend Asylum Seekers and the Friends of Abdul Majid Amiri are organising stalls around the Canterbury and Whitstable areas to collect signatures, which the groups hope will boost Majid’s chances of being allowed to remain in the UK. Last Saturday, two hundred individuals signed a petition in the city and Siobhan Tuppeney and Lauren Hill have informed IRR News that today’s stall outside Barclays Bank in Whitstable is having similar success, highlighting the level of local support for the Afghan youth. An additional stall is scheduled for 10.30am tomorrow in the Student’s Union at Christ Church College. The youngster has received unprecedented support from peers and teachers and, although the deportation remains scheduled for Saturday, the groups are hopeful that their efforts, coupled with those of Majid’s legal representation and the local community, will be rewarded.