Home | News    Saturday 14 April 2007

UK accused of collaborating with Sudan over Darfur refugees


April 13, 2007 (LONDON) — Human rights campaigners claim the Home Office is collaborating with the Sudanese government to question asylum-seekers fleeing the violence in Darfur.

The charities allege that the UK has passed information about individuals to the Sudanese embassy despite claims that they face persecution if they are returned to their homeland.

A coalition of pressure groups will today write to John Reid, the Home Secretary, attacking the Home Office for allowing Sudanese officials to interview people when they report to immigration offices. The Home Office insisted that it never passed information on asylum applications or criminal records to foreign governments. Officials said they did involve other countries to establish the nationality of people whose asylum applications had been rejected and people in Britain illegally so they could be given travel documents to allow them to return home.

Sadiq Abakar, 29, who fled Darfur for Britain in 1999, said he was asked questions about his background and tribe by a Sudanese official when he attended an appointment at the Home Office last month.

He said he was asked to go into a side room, where a Sudanese embassy official questioned him in Arabic about his tribal background. He said: "It’s like somebody taking you to see your killer. Since then, I have not felt safe. It’s just not right at all. It is really, really scary."

Campaigners said asylum-seekers in Leeds were also questioned by Sudanese officials at an immigration reporting centre.

Michael Moore, the Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman, said: "This absolutely beggars belief, the sheer insensitivity displayed is scandalous. The Government is fast developing a reputation for its shabby treatment of asylum-seekers from the most troubled parts of the world."

The letter to Mr Reid, signed by organisations including Human Rights Watch , the Aegis Trust and the Refugee Council, says: "Not only is this close working relationship disturbing, given the role of the Sudanese government and its security agencies in the persecution of Darfuris; it is also in serious breach of confidentiality and raises questions as to whether this is compatible with the Human Rights Act."

Louise Roland-Gosselin, director of the charity Waging Peace, which drafted the letter, said: "Given the Sudanese government’s known complicity in the ongoing genocide in Darfur, it is deeply concerning that the UK is attempting to send people from Darfur back to Sudan. It has a legal obligation under international law to protect Darfuri asylum- seekers from persecution."

A Home Office spokesman said: "It is standard practice to seek the assistance of other governments to establish the nationality of immigration offenders during the re-documentation process, if an individual is unable to provide their own travel document. However, the British government does not disclose information on an individual’s criminal or asylum history to other governments."


Below is the text of a press release issued by WagingPeace on the subject


Contact: Louise Roland-Gosselin, Waging PeaceOffice: 0207 243 0300 – Mobile: 07971561035 Email: louise.roland-gosselin@wagingpeace.info


London (13 April 2007) – In a letter to Home Secretary John Reid, London-based human rights groups have today urged the Home Office to halt all further removals of Darfuri asylum seekersto the UK and provide them with adequate protection.

In recent weeks, the Home Office has attempted to deport Darfuri asylum seekers to Khartoumdespite the explicit advice of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), who insists that Darfuris are at risk of torture and death if returned to the Sudanese capital.

In a significant judgment on 4 April, the Court of Appeal highlighted the difficulties with current Home Office policy regarding Darfuri asylum seekers. The Court overturned the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal’s refusal of three Darfuris asylum claims, on grounds that oppressive conditions in slums and IDP camps near Khartoum and the lack of resources for economic survival would make their resettlement “unduly harsh”.

“The Government and media in the UK know what the situation is in Sudan and that many of mypeople have been killed, and for many Darfuri’s in the UK we now live with the fear of having to go through this all over again”, explains Sadiq Abakar, a Darfuri asylum seeker.

Anna Reisenberger, Acting Chief Executive of the Refugee Council, said that given the Sudanese government’s role in the persecution of Darfuris, it was “scarcely believable that the UK has been removing people from Darfur back to Sudan”.

Another concern expressed by the Human Rights groups was the close working relationship between the Home Office and Sudanese Embassy officials on the management of Darfuri asylumcases.

In past weeks, Darfuri asylum seekers reporting to the Home Office have been taken to a roomwhere they were interrogated by Sudanese Embassy officials in the presence of UK immigration officials. The Sudanese Embassy officials in question claimed to be present at the request of the Home Office. Moreover they were in full possession of confidential details about the asylumseekers.

“The United Kingdom has a legal obligation under international law to protect Darfuri asylumseekers from persecution. Providing access to and information on asylum seekers whose claimsare still being considered is a clear breach of confidentiality and a violation of the asylumseeker’s human rights”, says Waging Peace Director Louise Roland-Gosselin.

The Home Office’s current policy on Darfuri asylum seekers contradicts the British Government’s often-stated commitment to end the Darfur crisis. If the British Government is truly concerned about the people of Darfur, then it must abide by its international obligation to protect these Darfuri asylum seekers.

Notes to Editor:Since the beginning of the Darfur crisis in 2003, 1000 Darfuris have fled government persecution and sought refuge in the UK.

The letter addressed to Home Secretary John Reid was signed by the following organisations: the Aegis Trust, the Darfur Union, Human Rights Watch, the Islamic Human Rights Commission, thePrisoners of Conscious Appeal Fund, the Refugee Council, Sudan Divestment UK and WagingPeace.

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The Sudan Tribune editorial team.
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