- Created: Friday, 15 June 2018 11:14
- Written by Charles Chinweizu
Every two months or so the British government rounds up about 50 Nigerians, Ghanaians, Liberians and Sierra Leoneans for deportation on specially chartered flights to Nigeria. The proposed passengers for these secretive charter flights are brutally dragged away in the middle of the night, shackled with three guards per person and their phones seized; the unlucky ones are deported hours later.
One migrant worker targeted in January 2018 was Kenneth Oranyendu, a father of four children, aged five, six, eight and 17; all are British citizens. In 2005-2007 Manchester RCG successfully helped Ken’s wife and son, Eucharia and Timeyi, fight deportation to Nigeria (FRFI 200, December 2007/January 2008). Charles Chinweizu spoke to Ken on behalf of FRFI about his current situation.
CC: How did you come to be in this situation?
KO: I am a former prisoner sentenced to seven years in 2014 for drug-trafficking offences. I served my time (three years, seven months) and I was punished for my offence. I was not told I would be deported after my sentence, and after release I was put on probation licence to run until 2021. I complied with all the conditions of my release. I just want to rebuild my life, my family are my whole life, and I cannot imagine myself away from them. I have changed and learnt from my mistakes, and I want an opportunity to show this and prove to society I’m not dangerous to them.
This is the racist and oppressive policy of double punishment. And, not only are you being punished twice – your family is also punished.
The Home Office is fighting to separate families; they see you as a number, not as a human being. The Windrush scandal was a shock; people who had worked to rebuild the country are treated as animals. I felt horrible about it. They lie that they don’t know how many have been deported. How can you treat people like that?
How did you come to be detained?
I was reporting to immigration services at Dallas Court in Salford every fortnight when I was seized on 16 January and taken to Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), held there for a week, then taken to Brook House IRC, near Gatwick airport. They claimed the reason for arresting me was they were ‘not sure I was living at one address’. A bogus reason. The Nigerian High Commission conducted a telephone interview the next day and the Home Office asked them to issue emergency travel documents for me.
I was given an ‘open window’ for deportation, ie no date, so solicitors don’t know what to do and judges can sideline your case for more urgent cases with definite removal dates. I claimed asylum as I feared for my life if deported and was released on bail pending an interview. I’m still waiting for that interview but my claim was fast tracked and rejected in two days.
I was given 20 days to withdraw my claim or put in fresh evidence. My claim was rejected finally on 8 March, and on 9 March I was detained again at Dallas Court. My wife had travelled to Nigeria for her dad’s funeral so I had sole responsibility for the children, taking them to school and so on. I was detained at 10 o’clock in the morning. They said: ‘The manager wants to speak to you’; I said ‘I hope I’m not going to be detained as I’m alone with the children’. They said ‘No, we just want to ask you some questions’, and then: ‘Are you fit to travel as you’re going to be detained?’
I told them ‘I don’t have anyone to look after the children. Who’s going to pick the children from school?’ I called my solicitor, the school and my wife in Nigeria. They said social services would be called to take the children. I was heartbroken. We didn’t leave Dallas Court until 9pm that night and I was at Colnbrook IRC by 3am the following day. All I had to eat was a croissant and crisps and water in the van. I later found out the Home Office broke its own rules in detaining a parent when they know it would cause the children to be taken into care.
What are Morton Hall and Colnbrook detention centres like?
These are prisons not detention centres. People are languishing in Morton Hall for no reason, living in fear and treated like animals. One detainee had been in there for 18 months.
There’s a lot of self-harm going on there. Two people hanged themselves, one a few days before I arrived: a Polish man called Lukasz Debowski who died on 11 January. Another man, who had earlier tried to take an overdose, also tried to hang himself but was luckily spotted by staff. I felt horrible and traumatised in there. The staff treat detainees not as human beings but like they are a piece of rag, and there were no facilities for contacting a solicitor. I felt afraid and I couldn’t sleep and had nightmares. I kind of slept with one eye open. I wouldn’t wish my worst enemy to be there.
Brook House is also a prison, but a bit more organised than Morton Hall. A lot of inmates had drug addiction problems but nobody wanted to help them. The staff felt that the people were going to be deported soon so simply ignored their complaints. Colnbrook was similar; you couldn’t actually go outside to get fresh air, and you felt trapped.
How do charter flights work?
People are deported without passports or travel documents, without even speaking to the High Commission to confirm that they are actually from Nigeria. People from all over West Africa are deported to Nigeria. People find out by local accident that they’re going to be on a charter flight because we get given a deportation window with no specific date. In March it was a friendly staff member who told detainees that their names were on a charter flight list. People were due to be collected by 12pm. One guy was taken by three officers at 5pm. He was taken to a military airfield at Doncaster. He got there at 2am. If you refuse to go the civilian staff simply leave and return later, with an enforcement team who forcibly drag you.
What is the position now and how can people reading this help with your case?
My children are still recovering from this trauma. They are afraid every time my wife says ‘Daddy has gone away’, as they don’t think I’ll be back. A psychologist’s report says my deportation would be harmful to my children. They are undergoing drama therapy organised by their school due to the trauma the Home Office has caused them in the past 10 months. The Home Office claims that this is not ‘a barrier to removal’, and that the judicial review proceedings into my 9 March detention for putting my children into care against their own guidelines, are ‘not a barrier to removal’ either. They have no regard for the law.
I was released again on 24 April, as the Nigerian High Commission refused to issue travel documents while I had a legal case pending. I need people to write to the Nigerian High Commission, Home Secretary Sajid Javid and Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes on my behalf.
Please quote Home Office reference number O1820102.
For the Nigerian High Commission, write to:
To sign the petition in support of Ken, go to https://chn.ge/2wFC2Um
Ali Nur – deported, beaten and terrorised by the racist British state
On 13 May, Ali Nur, a refugee who has lived in Britain since 1998 after fleeing civil war in Somalia, and who has three British-born children, was forcibly deported to Tanzania via Kenya. A previous attempt to remove him on 4 May had been abandoned after friends and supporters inundated Kenya Airways with calls, tweets and emails and Goldsmiths Anti-Imperialist Society and the Revolutionary Communist Group staged a last-ditch protest in the airport.
The Home Office snatched Ali from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre on a Sunday, when they knew solicitors would be hard to reach. Around 10 guards, employed by Home Office private security contractor Mitie, dragged Ali to Heathrow where they forced him on to flight KQ101. When he resisted he was brutalised by Mitie guards.
On arrival, Ali was subjected to further interrogations and beating by Tanzanian immigration officers who threatened to kill him. We demand justice for Ali and all victims of Britain’s racist immigration laws.
* See ‘Anti-imperialists stop deportation – join the fight to free Ali Nur’ on our website https://tinyurl.com/yaa74ppz
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 264 June/July 2018