Asylum-seeker's story

'They gave me $100 and told me to fend for myself in Baghdad'

Asylum-seeker deported from UK explains why he fears for his life

Abu Yousif is back home, back to Baghdad, where his brother was murdered and where, he believes, the same fate awaits him in the hands of the vengeful killers.

Every day is spent living in fear that the gunmen will hunt him down. "They have not gone away from here. I am afraid of what could happen. I only sleep a little, and then I wake up and think, is this going to be my last day, wondering what is going to happen to my family," he says. "This is still a very dangerous place. People in England must realise that."

Mr Yousif, a 39-year-old engineer, was one of 40 Iraqis thrown out of Britain, where they had sought asylum, because the Home Office decided that their homeland was now a safe place to live. It was the first time that a return to Baghdad had been attempted since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

To the huge embarrassment of the British Government, 30 of the deportees were refused entry by the Iraqi officials and sent back. Ten others were taken off the plane with UK officials who promised that the local embassy would look after them. What actually happened, says Mr Yousif, was that they were given $100 each and told to fend for themselves.

Human rights groups, churches and refugee charities have condemned the British authorities for insisting on the deportation to a place visited daily by murderous attacks. A spokesman for Amnesty International said: "Given the reports of killings, bombings and other human rights abuses that continue to come out of Baghdad, it is hard to comprehend that the UK Government considers it a safe place to return people."

Mr Yousif has now been back in Baghdad for three days, most of which, he says, have been spent in a room at the house of a friend.

"I cannot go back to live at home because I am told that is being watched," he told The Independent yesterday. "I do not even like leaving the room at my friend's home because I am always nervous. I think that I will be at risk from these same people who killed my brother. I do not know how long I can stay with my friend – he will be at risk as well. I keep a bag packed in case I have to move suddenly."

Mr Yousif said that each of the detainees had two guards alongside them during the flight to Iraq. The atmosphere was fraught, with many of those being sent back in obvious distress.

Mr Yousif and the others also received $45 each from immigration officials who said there was nothing more they could do. "I was wandering around, I felt lost. Then I got a taxi to my friend's place. Luckily he and his family were there and they took me in. The money is running out fast, and I am not sure how I will support myself."

Mr Yousif met The Independent at a public location in central Baghdad, which he considered to be comparatively safe. His voice was strained as he described how his life had unravelled, his eyes darting around, trying to spot signs of danger. He had been convinced several times during the journey to the meeting that he was being followed.

Mr Yousif has not seen his wife and two children or his parents for more than three years. They went into hiding after the death of his brother, Sabah, and it is safer for them, he felt, not to be with him.

The chain of violence which led to the murder of Sabah and Mr Yousif fleeing Iraq began when he started working for an international company, Global, engaged in security work for the US military and Iraqi ministries.

"I have a degree from the technical university here, but this was 2004 and it was very, very difficult to get jobs. Working for foreigners made you a target, but I needed the money to feed my family," he said. "I worked for them for two years, and then the terrorists must have found out about my job. I was sent an envelope with a bullet in it and a warning that I would be killed unless I stopped working for the company.

"I did not want to put my family in danger, my wife was very afraid, and I decided to leave the job. My brother went to the offices to pick up some documents for me and after he left he was murdered. They shot him in the head and then they disfigured the body with knives. They had mistaken him for me.

"My parents blamed me for what had happened, for working for a foreign company, and I do not think even now they have forgiven me."

Mr Yousif was advised by friends to leave the country. He paid $8,000 to a Kurdish group who took him through northern Iraq, Turkey and then across Europe in a truck to Dover. He walked into a police station in April 2006, saying he was an asylum-seeker. He was held in a detention centre in Cambridge while his application was processed. He appeared before a tribunal, where his case was rejected.

"I was told that Iraq was now a free country and I would be sent back because it was safe. The same week there were bombs in Baghdad with a lot of people blown up."

Mr Yousif was put on notice of deportation but given temporary leave to remain. He stayed with an Iraqi family for almost three-and-a-half years in Dover. At the end of last month he was told to report to a detention centre. He was held there for two weeks, then put on the flight to Baghdad.

"When I got to England, I thought I was safe at last. I thought I would be able to take my family over there and we could start a life away from all the trouble and the violence.

"All the British people I had met in Baghdad said it was a good place, and a fair place, and I believed them."

He shakes his head. "Now I do not know what will happen to me. I have lost everything, I feel there is just darkness ahead of me."

The asylum-seeker's name was changed.

Week of violence: Attacks wreak havoc in Iraq

Wednesday

At least seven people are killed after gold merchants are robbed in Shula district, Baghdad. The gunmen use grenades to make their escape. Three bombs explode in Karbala, one of the holiest cities for Shia Muslims, killing at least three.

Monday

An attack in Buhriz, north of Baghdad, kills the town's mayor and injures his two sons.

Tuesday

A suicide bomber kills eight in Buhriz, according to police, in an attack which they say is targeted at the leader of a Sunni paramilitary group backed by the US.

Thursday

An Iraqi soldier is killed by a roadside bomb in an attack in Baghdad's Adhamiya district. Two soldiers and a civilian are also wounded.

Friday

A man opens fire in a mosque in Tal Afar, northern Iraq, before blowing himself up: at least 15 die. An Iraqi soldier is killed by a suicide car bomber at a checkpoint west of Mosul.

Saturday

A bridge near Ramadi on a road used by US forces is destroyed by a suicide bomber who blows up a truck loaded with dynamite. A roadside bomb outside Fallujah kills four Iraqi soldiers.

Yesterday

Two killed in Haswa by a roadside bomb. Sources: AP; Reuters

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Sport
Scunthorpe goalkeeper Sam Slocombe (left) is congratulated by winning penalty taker Miguel Llera (right)
football
Life and Style
A woman walks by a pandal art installation entitled 'Mars Mission' with the figure of an astronaut during the Durga Puja festival in Calcutta, India
techHow we’ll investigate the existence of, and maybe move in with, our alien neighbours
Arts and Entertainment
Sir Ian McKellen tempts the Cookie Monster
tvSir Ian McKellen joins the Cookie Monster for a lesson on temptation
News
i100
Travel
Tourists bask in the sun beneath the skyscrapers of Dubai
travelBritish embassy uses social media campaign to issue travel advice for festive holiday-makers in UAE
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: Direct Sales Consultants - OTE £65,000 - £100,000

£65000 - £100000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This national direct sales com...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Consultant - OTE £40,000

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Can you sell? Want to earn over...

Recruitment Genius: Partitioners / Carpenter / Multi Skilled Tradesmen / Decorator

£28000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Various opportunities are avail...

Recruitment Genius: Trade Marketing Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company leads the market i...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum