02 December, 2006


Asylum shopping for beginners

The Times launches its Christmas charity drive and gives as an example of the sterling work of its chosen beneficiary, the British Red Cross, the case of Hamid Haiky. Mr Haiky had the misfortune of living in Darfur. Mr Haiky, finding himself in the wrong place at the wrong time, managed to evade the attentions of the Janjiweed and put himself in the hands of a people trafficker. In due course he arrived in the UK and was granted refuge. Subsequently, the Red Cross was able to locate his wife and child in a refugee camp in Chad and bring them to join him in London.

All good stuff, but I have two questions.

1. Why did Mr Haiky spend £20,000, a significant sum for a West European, never mind a Sudanese, in being carried half-way across the world to the UK, when with less trouble and at lower cost he might have found sanctuary elsewhere in East Africa, perhaps in the relative safety of Uganda or Kenya?

2. The Red Cross were able to locate and gain access to his wife and child in the relative safety if admitted discomfort of a Darfuri refugee camp in Chad. Since it was clearly safe for him to do so, why did Mr Haiky not join them there in the expectation of a return to his Darfuri homeland when the current nastiness is eventually resolved?

I am reminded of piece in the London Evening Standard a year or two ago. The piece was not actually about asylum seekers; it was a feature in the paper's jobs section on training opportunities, and described the case of a woman from a small upcountry town in Uganda. She was a senior nurse or matron. Her husband had been murdered in some local politics-related squabble. Perceiving herself to be under threat from her husband's enemies, she fled, taking the youngest of her three children with her. In due course she wound up - where else - but the good old UK. Here she was undertaking retraining in some or other paramedic function.

So far, so par for the course. Now, she had left her two elder children back in Uganda. It seems they were away at boarding school in a different part of the country, where they were apparently safe from her late husband's enemies. A few years after the lady's arrival in the UK, the older kids having graduated from the boarding school at the age of 18, she was now in the process of applying for them to come and join her in London.

If I recall correctly, the Home Office was for once demonstrating a bit of bottle and telling her where to stuff her application. Although, knowing our fit-for-purpose IND, I expect they caved in in the end.

So, if her kids were safe elsewhere in Uganda, then the danger was presumably localized and she could have reached safety simply by relocating within Uganda. Her asylum claim in the UK was clearly both unfounded and cyncically deceitful; she should have had her leave to remain withdrawn and have achieved reunification with her children by returning to Uganda.

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