Failed asylum seekers quietly returned to Somalia
Alan Travis, Guardian, Jun. 15
The Home Office has quietly started the forced return of failed Somali asylum seekers to Mogadishu where severe faction fighting has left more than 100 civilians dead in the last two months.
The United Nations High Comissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Amnesty International are pressing the immigration service for urgent clarification over how six men could have been sent back to a war zone since March 31 as a result of an “unannounced policy change”.
It is believed that some of the men have been flown to Dubai and then on an uninsured flight by Dallo Airlines to an old Soviet airforce base at Bale Dougle which is controlled by clan militias.
Somalia is the biggest single source of asylum applications to Britain, with 4,585 people applying to stay here in the past year.
The deportations came as the Home Office slipped out the news in a Commons written answer that it is to start enforced returns to Iraq “as soon as the necessary arrangements are in place”.
It is believed there are up to 16,000 Iraqis living in Britain who have been refused asylum or exceptional leave to remain. The agreement reached with the Iraqi coalition provisional authority makes Britain the first European country to begin the enforced return of failed Iraqi asylum seekers.
An Amnesty International report published yesterday to mark the start of Refugee Week shows that, according to official statistics, up to three-quarters of asylum applications in Britain are from people fleeing countries where conflicts are occuring as defined by the International Institute of Strategic Studies.
The UNHCR and Amnesty have told the Home Office they are “extremely concerned” about the unannounced decision to forcibly return Somali men to Mogadishu. The UN warned in January against any returns south of the town of Galkayo, an area that includes Mogadishu.
“Since then the security situation in this region has, if anything, further deteriorated,” said an Amnesty spokesman. “In the last two months there has been severe faction fighting leaving more than 100 civilians killed and thousands displaced. Armed factions have committed killings and rape and have looted with impunity.”
There has been no rule of law or security in Somalia, in north-east Africa, after 12 years of conflict and collapse of the state. Hundreds of thousands of people have been displaced.
Amnesty International has reported that there has been no national government or administration, army, police or justice system since the state collapsed in Somalia in 1991. Kidnappings and rape of women and girls, particulary from minority communities, who have fled their homes has been reported in Mogadishu. They also face looting by armed groups.
The change in Home Office policy only came to light when human rights lawyers spotted a change in the immigration service’s operational guidance last month. Along with Somali community leaders, they have protested to MPs demanding to know when what they regarded as a secret change in policy had started.