- Created: Tuesday, 08 May 2018 12:57
- Written by Anthony Rupert
On Friday 4 May activists from the Revolutionary Communist Group, Goldsmiths College Anti-Imperialist Society and others mobilised in support of Somali refugee Ali Nur in order to stop his deportation to Tanzania.
Ali has lived in England since 1998, when he fled the Somali civil war in which his family were slaughtered. He has built a new life here and has three British-born children.
Since 2015, Ali had seen very little progress on his Home Office case, trying everything to improve the situation, getting stuck between an uninterested solicitor and frustration created by the Home Office. For the last eight years he has reported weekly at the west London immigration reporting centre Eaton House without missing a single appointment. Then on 23 April 2018, when he went to report as normal, he was detained and told he was going to be deported. He was taken from the reporting centre to Colnbrook IRC, an immigration prison next to Heathrow airport.
In 2017 Ali was forced to attend an interview organised by the Home Office at the Tanzanian High Commission. At the meeting the Home Office interrogated Ali, using information they collected from browsing his Facebook page, such as his friends list, to build a case that he is a Tanzanian national. The Home Office representative said that Ali ‘looked Tanzanian’ and had ‘Tanzanian Facebook friends’.
Ali is from the Somali minority Bajuni tribe. He therefore speaks Kibajuni which is a dialect of Swahili. Consequently, he could understand the Tanzanian embassy staff speaking, who he overheard complaining in Swahili that he was definitely not from Tanzania and that this process was a waste of Home Office resources. Ali left the meeting confident that the Home Office had no case and this would all go away.
In the following weeks Ali received a letter from the Home Office, claiming that he had 14 days to prove he is not a Tanzanian national. After years of silence, and confiscating his Somali passport in 2009, the Home Office was now trying to deport Ali to a country he has no connection with. This was not the first time the Home Office has tried to deport Bajunis to Tanzania. Since the British government cannot easily deport to Somalia, due to the country’s ongoing conflict and lack of government structures, the Home Office have deported Swahili-speaking Somalis to neighbouring countries Kenya and Tanzania (see VICE, 2014).
Language testing and racial profiling
Through using a mix of language testing and other forms of racial profiling, Home Office lawyers build cases against people who often have little to no legal representation, due to the ending in 2013 of most legal aid provision for immigration cases, and who cannot pay for lawyers as they are not permitted to work in Britain while their cases are pending.
In 2014, the Home Office ended its contract with Swedish company Sprakab, which had been contracted to provide language analysis in cases involving disputed nationality, after the Supreme Court ruled that Sprakab staff had given ‘wholly inappropriate’ opinions to a British asylum tribunal on whether a Somali asylum seeker sounded convincing, rather than just reporting on their use of language. It was later revealed in a Swedish documentary that the Somali dialect ‘specialist’ employed by Sprakab and relied on to create over 5,000 reports, had a fabricated university degree and had had doubts cast on his abilities by several independent language specialists.
Fighting Ali’s deportation
After a week of detention in Colnbrook, Ali received a notice of deportation to Tanzania, but now addressed to a new name ‘Abdillahi Said Ali’ (later changed again by the Home Office to ‘Abdillahi Ali Juma’). The flight was set to take place on Friday 4 May at 18:25. Ali applied for a Judicial Review, but this did not halt the Home Office’s removal directions; they did not even reply to Ali’s solicitor’s faxes to acknowledge receipt of his legal challenge.
However, what the Home Office didn’t know was that Ali had begun mobilising his supporters to fight back. Details and phone numbers for Kenya Airways, Colnbrook IRC and the Home Office were being circulated across social media, mailing lists and WhatsApp. Activists from around the country, ranging from students, Somali community groups and migration support organisations, began bombarding Kenya Airways and Colnbrook with complaints and demands to not deport Ali and free him from Colnbrook.
The Windrush scandal was all over the media, enhancing the effectiveness of the message distributed by Ali’s supporters – that the Home Office is racist, corrupt and behaves in a inhumane way towards migrants in order to fulfil both its bureaucratic ‘targets’ and its reactionary political agenda.
As the date of Ali’s threatened deportation drew nearer, his supporters began mobilising for a protest at the desk of Kenya Airways at Heathrow 4 Terminal. Despite harassment from armed police, mixed with promises from airline staff that Ali would not be put on the flight, supporters went ahead with the protest, displaying placards about Ali’s case, chanting and distributing informative leaflets to passengers due to board the flight to Tanzania.
Meanwhile, Ali was being held in a Home Office van on the runway next to the Kenya Airways plane. The flight was delayed due to the protest; then after a tense hour of waiting, the van holding Ali turned around and returned him to Colnbrook.
Ali quickly got in touch (basic mobile phones are allowed in Colnbrook), saying: ‘I wouldn’t have made it out without you, I’m texting this with tears in my eyes.’
The Home Office guards concurred, although they were far from happy about the outcome, telling Ali: ‘If it hadn’t been for your friends you wouldn’t still be here. Next time we’ll take you quietly’.
We will never allow the racist Home Office to do anything quietly!
We must always raise our voice and act in solidarity with those attacked by racist immigration laws alongside all those willing to work together to fight this. The fight goes on to get Ali bailed from Colnbrook, and to find a solicitor who can begin to unpick and stand up to the Home Office’s fraudulent claims. Together we can fight Theresa May's 'hostile environment' and Britain's racist immigration laws.
Free Ali now!