I was putting my one-year-old triplets to bed. My two older children were asleep. The sound of the clock ticking caught my attention. My husband did not return home that day. He had been forced to leave the country to seek protection in Britain. It was a big shock as I now had to take care of five children alone. The government did not support me. I had to give up my job as a Mathematics teacher to be able to take care of my children. My family, especially my sister, helped me during this time and I was very grateful for her support.
We spent every night until morning hoping to see my husband again someday. When my husband informed us that he had been granted asylum in the United Kingdom and that we would be able to join him as his family, it was a big relief that we would be reunited soon. However the journey was not easy.
When he called us and told us he was homeless in the UK, I cried at night worrying about him. After a few days, we heard that through RAMFEL’s assistance, he had managed to get into a hostel.
Three years later after my husband had left, we finally managed to enter the UK with the help of RAMFEL and the Red Cross to join him. It was unbelievable. With the cooperation and kindness of our caseworker at RAMFEL, we were transferred from the airport to an independent house. It was difficult for us in the first few days, but we were happy to be together finally. My children have now enrolled in local schools. My husband and I have enrolled in our local college for English classes. We have received two laptop donations to assist us with academic work. We have also gotten some bicycle donations through The Bike Project to make our travel cheaper and easier.
My husband and I were teaching Mathematics at university in my home country, Iran. Our goals were only half-complete. We will not give up as God is always with us. We thank God every day that we are all here together safely and that he has led us to good and kind organisations like RAMFEL. We intend to return to our previous work with love and continue to teach in England. We hope that we will be able to pass the equivalent course for Teaching here in the UK so that we are able to teach again.
I will write my unwritten book with you earthly angels so that everyone will know that we came to the UK to love with liberation. I wish one day I could give all the love I received from you to all human beings and wish that there was no place in the world of discrimination and injustice, war and bloodshed, and that we had a world full of love and happiness.
Yesterday evening the government’s plans to exile 7 asylum seekers to Rwanda were thwarted at the last minute. This was after intervention from the European Court of Human Rights, which issued an injunction preventing the removal of at least 1 of the 7 men, an Iraqi national suspected of being a torture survivor. Following this, the remaining 6 men were removed from the flight in batches as their lawyers sought and obtained similar injunctions.
That it took intervention from the European Court is unfortunate, not least because the government will inevitably use this as a pretext to launch further attacks on the Court and the UK’s continued membership of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court’s intervention here though evidences just what was at stake for the men on that flight, with such interventions only taking place when there is a risk of serious human rights violations. Such risks were always obvious, and the reprehensible plan managed to unite forces as disparate as refugee rights NGOS, the monarchy and religious leaders of all faiths in opposition to it.
What was even more disheartening was the government’s determination to press ahead with this flight, despite them knowing that substantive legal proceedings scheduled for July may in any case have seen them need to bring the deported men back to the UK. This was performative cruelty at its worse, and it is difficult to conclude that last night’s flight was anything other than an attempt to intimidate and punish those who came to the UK seeking sanctuary only to instead be threatened with a one-way ticket to a country many wouldn’t have heard of and where their safety clearly was not guaranteed.
The cruelty of this policy was clear even before the government started indiscriminately handing out tickets to men detained at Gatwick and Heathrow detention centres. RAMFEL client, Taraki, was one of the first to speak out about his fears when news of the policy broke. For the men actually issued tickets, these fears must only have been heightened.
Despite all the heartache caused, it was inspiring to witness the tireless efforts of everyone who worked to stop this tragedy unfolding. NGOs such as Detention Action, Asylum Aid and Care 4 Calais challenged this policy in the courts, ably assisted by lawyers who evidently were working non-stop to ensure their clients were taken off the flight with barely hours left before its scheduled departure.
Beyond the legal challenges brought, the men faced with exile themselves showed incredible courage, many sharing their stories publicly. It is never easy for people to share such intimate information with the public, but putting human stories into the public domain undermined government efforts to present these men as scary boogey men or simply faceless numbers.
Finally, the actions of protesters who attended the Home Office and the detention centres also clearly made a difference and let the government know there is sharp opposition to this policy. Tales of men held at Heathrow detention centre who weren’t on the flight protesting on behalf of those who were was also inspiring and showed human solidarity in the face of adversity and cruelty.
The government has this morning announced plans to charter a new flight ahead of July’s court case, demonstrating that no lessons have been learned and that there is no genuine desire on their part to actually try and solve the problems that lead to people making the dangerous journey across the Channel. It will likely take another gargantuan effort to ensure no one boards this second plane, and yet more public money will surely be wasted on this performative cruelty. The human suffering for those given tickets – and those fearing they will – will be even more costly.
We spoke with Taraki this morning, who thankfully was not given a ticket for this flight. He told us how happy and relieved he was that the flight was cancelled, but was understandably shocked and disappointed when we told him that the government are already pressing ahead with plans for the next flight. We hope that in a few weeks’ time, we won’t be battling to get Taraki off a plane bound for Rwanda.