Asylum-seekers arrested following daring escape

Rob Hastings@robhastings
Sunday 23 October 2011 07:23

Two Iraqi refugees facing deportation to Baghdad made a dramatic escape from an asylum detention centre but were recaptured by police using dogs and a helicopter.

Ahmed Hussein Saeed and Mohammed Abdullah, both failed asylum-seekers, fled after scaling a razor-wire perimeter fence at Campsfield House detention centre in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, on Thursday night.

Mr Abdullah was apprehended almost immediately and it appeared that his escape was not reported to police. Mr Saeed managed to travel to London before he was found and arrested yesterday morning.

Last night, he was in hospital with a suspected broken leg and deep cuts that he sustained scaling the fence. A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: "We can confirm that we received a report at approximately 10.30pm [on Thursday] that a man had escaped from Campsfield detention centre. We understand that the man has now been found."

The two men, both ethnic Kurds, were due to be flown to the Iraqi capital on Monday. The British Government has recently begun flying failed Kurdish asylum-seekers to Baghdad rather than the semi-autonomous Kurdish area of northern Iraq, because the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) refuses to accept anyone who has been brought under duress.

The UK Border Agency tried to remove Mr Saeed to Kurdistan five months ago but he was immediately sent back to Britain after he confirmed to Kurdish airport officials that he had been repatriated against his will.

Fifteen Iraqi refugees have been flown to Baghdad this month, of which several were Kurds. British officials tried to send their flight on to Kurdistan but were told by the KRG that this was not acceptable.

A spokesman for the Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq told The Independent that British authorities now simply left Kurdish refugees in Baghdad with $100 and a hotel room for the night, and instructed them to make their own way back home to Kurdistan from there.

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: "The UK Border Agency only ever returns those who both the agency and the courts are satisfied do not need our protection and refuse to leave voluntarily.

"Currently we have agreement with the Government of Iraq to return all Iraqi citizens to Baghdad. We make arrangements for those who require onward travel to their home towns, and this includes those travelling to Kurdistan.

"These arrangements worked well on the recent charter flights to Baghdad and we are confident they will continue to do so."

Mr Saeed has lived in Britain for nine years but has been detained for the past 10 months. A friend claimed he had "done nothing wrong here".

"He is running away from tribal violence. They tried to send him back before but the government over there wouldn't accept him into the country. He is desperate not to go back," added the friend, who asked not to be named.

According to the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR), at least 50 more Iraqis are marked down for removal to Baghdad on Monday. The group is leading a campaign to stop all deportations to Iraq while the security and political situation there remains uncertain.

Dashty Jamal, the secretary of the IFIR, said: "These deportations must be stopped. There is a campaign in Iraq of politicians, writers, journalists and many freedom-loving people [who] condemn this collusion, between the puppet militia running Iraq and the British Government, to send back people who were victims of the violence that continues to devastate the country. We call on people in Britain to do the same."

David Wood, the head of criminality and detention services at the UK Border Agency, said: "A detainee escaped from Campsfield immigration removal centre on Thursday evening. He has now been recaptured and is back in detention."

This article was amended on 6 September to add a comment from the UK Border Agency.