Judge prevents Theresa May sending asylum-seeker back to lawless Somalia

Home Secretary accused of acting unlawfully as man fears Islamists will kill him on his return

The Home Secretary, Theresa May, has been accused of acting unlawfully by forcing the removal of failed Somali asylum-seekers to Mogadishu where they fear they will be murdered by Islamic militants. In what is being seen as a test case affecting thousands of Somalis in Britain, a judge has granted an injunction at the last minute halting the removal of a 23-year-old man, identified only as Abdullah, who was due to be flown back to Mogadishu on Tuesday.

His lawyers argued successfully that a decision on his future should await the imminent findings of an immigration upper-tribunal. This will consider UK government claims that Mogadishu is safe.

The man was reprieved, but his lawyers still fear he could be removed within days or weeks depending on the findings of the tribunal.

Speaking to The Independent from the Harmondsworth detention centre near Heathrow on Monday, Abdullah said: “I do not have words to describe it. I am overwhelmed with fear. It is a place that I escaped from and I came to this country hoping my life would be changed for the better.” 

In January, Abdullah was forcibly put on board a flight to Istanbul en route for Mogadishu but a last-minute legal challenge meant he was brought back to the UK. He has spent the past months on bail under curfew wearing an electronic tag until he was taken back into detention.

The aftermath of a car bomb in Mogadishu in February The aftermath of a car bomb in Mogadishu in February (AFP/Getty)

During the course of his removal he said he had been “handcuffed… assaulted, punched and dragged” by escorts in front of other passengers who heard him screaming for help.

He said his message for the Government was straightforward. “Britons might have shed their blood in multiple continents in protection of human rights but it seems that human rights [are being] violated here at home,” he said.

The Home Office issued new advice to case workers considering asylum appeals from Somalis in April this year. The UK Government still acknowledges that Somalia remains too dangerous to return people to areas outside the capital, but says the general situation has improved since the overt withdrawal of the Islamist terror group al-Shabaab in 2011.

The advice adds: “There is no frontline fighting or shelling any longer; and the number of civilian casualties has gone down. The available country information does not indicate that, at present, the situation is of such a nature as to place everyone who is present in the city at a real risk of treatment such that removal to Mogadishu would be contrary to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.”

Toufique Hossain, of solicitors Duncan Lewis who is representing Abdullah, said: “The law has not changed whatever the Secretary of State chooses to say in the country guidance, because that is up to the tribunal to decide and there should not be attempts to remove people until then.”

He said there was a clear risk that his client’s human rights would be breached if he was sent back and that the security situation in Mogadishu had recently worsened.

Abdullah said he had been in contact with another man who was removed in similar circumstances last month who is now in hiding. The man, who also wishes to remain anonymous, told Al Jazeera this week: “I have surrendered myself to death. All I am thinking is that I am a dying man.”

The Home Office’s own guidance notes that Mogadishu’s four main hospitals treated 4,412 people for weapons injuries in 2013.

Al-Shabaab, which was responsible for the assault in February on the presidential palace in which a government official died, has warned that individuals returning from the West would be targeted as infidels.

Abdullah described how he was a member of a minority clan and that his father, a university professor, had been shot and injured and many members of his family killed.

“We are an easy target and we are made to be victims. I have seen many bad incidents happen to my family. I made my own way to this country – this is my last hope,” he said.

Home Office figures show that there were 33 enforced returns to Somalia in 2013. In the first quarter of 2014, 19 people were sent back although the figures do not show how many were returned to Mogadishu where the violence is worst.

Louise Calvey, director of delivery at Refugee Action, said she was “very concerned” that the Home Office had recommenced forcible removals to Somalia. “This is in the face of serious security concerns reported through UNHCR, Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International.”

Jasmine Sallis, of the Unity Centre in Glasgow which has been campaigning against the enforced returns of Somalis, said: “It is completely absurd that the Home Office is even attempting let alone successfully sending people back to Somalia given that it is extremely dangerous there.

“The Government is clearly failing its human rights obligations.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We believe that those who fail to establish a genuine fear of persecution should return home voluntarily. If they do not, we will enforce their removal.

“There has been no change to our returns policy in relation to Somalia and Somaliland, and removals continue to take place.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Arts and Entertainment
tvThe C-Word, TV review
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Sport
Danny Jones was in the Wales squad for the 2013 World Cup
rugby leagueKeighley Cougars half-back was taken off after just four minutes
Life and Style
The original ZX Spectrum was simple to plug into your TV and get playing on
techThirty years on, the ZX Spectrum is back, after a fashion
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk