Home Office warned it would have 'blood on its hands' over moves to send Syrian political activist back to his war-torn home country

 

The Home Office was tonight warned it risked getting “blood on its hands” over moves to forcibly send a Syrian political activist back to his war-torn home country.

Only a last-minute legal challenge prevented the UK Border Agency from returning the man to Daraa, the centre of the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad’s regime.

The human rights organisation Amnesty International said it was “deeply alarmed” over the moves to expel him and urged Britain to follow the lead of other European nations and stop sending asylum-seekers back to Syria.

The Independent disclosed last week that the number of Syrians claiming refuge in this country has leapt from about ten a month to more than 100 a month since civil war broke out in spring 2011.

The new claimants include the man at the centre of the legal wrangle, who is not being identified to protect his safety and that of relatives living in the Daraa area.

The man, who originally came to Britain on a student visa which has since run out, became a high-profile demonstrator against President Assad, joining numerous protests in London.

His solicitors argue his life would be at risk if he was sent back as the Syrian embassy has been compiling information about prominent dissidents in this country.

He claimed asylum last summer and was rejected just over a year later. Two weeks ago as he reported to the UK Border Agency (UKBA), he was arrested and taken straight to detention, warning he was about to be deported.

The removal was stopped by the High Court less than 48 hours before he was due to be flown out of Britain and his legal team is preparing a fresh appeal against his removal.

His solicitor, Alice Cunliffe, of the Brent Community Law Centre in north London, said: “He was absolutely petrified when he was detained. It was a terrible situation for him to be in.

“He feared that as soon as he arrived in Syria, he would be detained or tortured, or could well even be executed.

“It is crazy to remove people back to Syria – there is absolutely doubt they would be at serious risk from the very fact they are being handed back by the British authorities.”

Amnesty International has raised the case in a letter to Theresa May, the Home Secretary, in which it urged her to suspend all forced removals of Syrian nationals for the moment. Britain is understood to be the only country in the European Union still carrying out enforced removals to Syria.

Its UK refugee programme director, Jan Shaw, said: “The government has been instrumental in pressing the United Nations to take action to address the serious abuses being perpetrated in Syria and so it is astonishing that whilst actively acknowledging the scale of such abuses, it would seek to return someone. At best this might be a case of the right hand not knowing what the left is doing, which is unacceptable.

“Had it not been for an eleventh hour intervention, the UK government could have blood on its hands over this case.”

The deteriorating situation in Syria has led to the UKBA issuing new guidance to staff handling asylum applications from Syrians.

It warns that the Syrian security agencies routinely extract confessions by torturing suspects and locking up their relatives and estimates there are up to 3,000 political prisoners in the country.

The Home Office did not comment tonight.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
2015 General Election
May2015

Poll of Polls

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions