How the vulnerable are victimised to meet targets

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Indy Politics

For every Sakchai Makao who wins his or her battle against deportation, there are scores of other "soft targets" with sorrier tales to tell.

Typical of them is "Begum", a rape victim who claimed asylum three years ago, saying she would be killed by her ex-husband if she was forced to return to India.

After her claim was rejected last year, she mounted a vigorous campaign to remain in Kent where she settled. Without warning, she was arrested when she reported to an immigration centre and shortly afterwards she was removed from Heathrow airport.

The Independent also recently highlighted the case of Alejandrina Guard, a Mexican model living in Hampshire who was deported nearly five years after her arrival in Britain - and despite her marriage to a British national.

In Carlisle, pub regulars have banded together to join the campaign for the return of a stalwart of their pool team. Adnan Kos fled Turkey seven years after his father was murdered and was about to marry his long-term partner with whom he has a son. He was deported earlier this year.

Such cases have led to a growing suspicion that officials are singling out particularly vulnerable people in their desperation to boost numbers of illegal immigrants removed from the country.

Tony Blair has made heavy play of a promise - achieved earlier this year - that more failed asylum-seekers would be removed every month than make unfounded claims.

The Home Office has also insisted that increasing numbers of other types of illegal immigrants are being removed.

But critics retort it is being achieved through a surge in numbers of foreigners with strong links in this country over many years being picked up in raids. Growing numbers of husbands or wives accused of taking part in "sham marriages" are also being removed.

Tim Finch, spokesman for the Refugee Council, said: "There appears to be a tendency to act against people who comply with the rules or who don't move around the country. That inevitably means more women with children are caught up in the net."

Shami Chakrabarti, director of Liberty, said: "There has been too much of an emphasis by the Government on targets and statistics and not enough emphasis on humanity, which can lead to terrible injustices."