‘I did not expect Britain to treat me like a criminal’: A reluctant fighter for Assad who fled Syria for the UK on why he is terrified of being deported
Muhammed Hatif is facing deportation to eastern Europe where he was 'punched like a boxer’s bag' by Hungarian police during his journey to the UK
When Muhammed Hatif fled Syria he never thought he would end up in a British detention centre. Today, however, the 25-year-old refugee is among a group of his compatriots facing deportation from Britain to eastern Europe. Their numbers may be small, but they are vulnerable, and frightened.
Formerly a reluctant soldier for the Assad regime, Muhammed left his native Aleppo for Turkey in September 2012 with the aim of reaching “safety” in Britain, where he says he has cousins.
He paid people smugglers to get him to Hungary – where he says was beaten and kept in solitary confinement – before continuing on his journey through Austria, Italy and France, arriving in Dover on the back of a lorry in July 2013 and quickly being detained.
Like other Syrians in British custody he is facing a return to eastern Europe under the EU’s controversial Dublin regulation – which allows member states to return asylum seekers to the first European country they entered – despite the Government moving to accept 500 Syrian refugees after a campaign by aid agencies and The Independent.
Refugee charities and human rights bodies, including Amnesty International UK, Human Rights Watch, Refugee Action and the Refugee Council, have condemned the British Government practice of detaining and returning some Syrian refugees.
Muhammed said he is “terrified” of being returned to “squalid conditions” and “poor treatment” in Hungary, where he will likely have to be return. Speaking through an interpreter, he described how he was detained in Hungary on his arrival last year and was kept in solitary confinement, “punched like a boxer’s bag” by police, “stripped naked” and only fed once a day until he agreed provided his fingerprints to asylum authorities.
The Independent was unable to verify all of Muhammed’s claims, but charities suggest his tale is not unusual.
Jerome Phelps, director of Detention Action, said that “traumatised people are facing removal to third countries where conditions are very poor” and that they are “being detained in a prison-like environment in the UK beforehand”.
Muhammed said he was disappointed with Britain and had not expect to be “treated like a criminal”.
Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International UK have condemned the failure to sufficiently reform the controversial Dublin regulation and raised concerns over conditions for refugees returned to countries on the border of the EU, including Bulgaria, Italy, Greece and Hungary.
A recent Amnesty International report also highlighted the UNHCR’s concerns over Hungary’s treatment of asylum seekers. The country accepted 18,000 Syrian refugees last year but there have been reports of poor conditions in reception centres and reports that conditions in detention fall short of international and EU standards.
The Home Office says individual are only detained if there is a realistic prospect of their removal, but has refused to rule out the return of Syrians under the Dublin Regulation. A spokesperson added: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need it. All asylum cases are considered on their individual merits and in line with immigration rules.”
Emergency call 'started off dumb, but got pretty serious'
Britain First criticised for using actress's memory to draw attention to their 'hate-filled home page'
Thought you'd seen it all after the Jeremy Paxman interview?
Greatest mystery about the hit BBC1 show is how it continues to be made at all, writes Grace Dent
"History is violent," says the US Army tank commander Don "Wardaddy" Collier
Striker's four-month ban for biting an opponent expires on Friday
Argentinian scored 'rabona' wonder goal for Tottenham in Europa League – see it here
- 1 This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
- 2 Watch what happened when food critics were unknowingly served McDonald's
- 3 Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
- 4 Ottawa shootings: Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon is the perfect tribute to soldier Nathan Cirillo
- 5 Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Isis releases first video showing the stoning of woman accused of committing adultery as her father shouts 'don't call me Dad'
This 'woman calls police to order pizza' story isn't going where you're expecting
FCKH8: YouTube reinstates provocative anti-sexism video showing young girls swearing
Diwali: What is the festival of lights – and how is it celebrated around the world?
Jimmy Carr's controversial Oscar Pistorius joke goes a bit too far at the Q Awards
Of course, teenage girls need role models – but not like beauty vlogger Zoella
Cameron is warned 'no possibility' of UK reducing immigration and that bid to bring in quota on migrant workers would be illegal
Support for EU membership 'at highest level since 1991' with most Brits wanting to stay 'in'
Thousands with degenerative conditions classified as 'fit to work in future' – despite no possibility of improvement
Residents should throw a street party and mix with immigrant neighbours, councils told
Attacks on 'Ukip Calypso' show how skewed people’s priorities are
£30000 - £35000 Per Annum plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...
£24000 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Manchester Secondary: The Job:Te...
£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: the job ? We are looking for...
£120 - £162 per day: Randstad Education Hull: Secondary English Teacher Requir...