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Saturday, October 1, 2016
Afshin Azizian: My Story
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¬†I am a man without a state. I fled Iran in 1995 because I was tortured due to my political and religious beliefs. My relatives arranged my escape by paying an agent a substantial amount of money to take me out of the country to Canada. I was taken by land to Turkey first, then after about a month, I was taken by air to Spain. In Spain I was told by the agent to claim asylum there in case his attempt to get me to Canada failed and to pre-empt being deported back to Iran. So I did what he told me because I had no idea what to do myself. After about two months I was told to get ready to fly via the UK to Canada. I was so happy that at last I could join my relatives in Canada and be safe. I arrived in the UK on 29 November 1995, accompanied by another person who was on his way to the US to join his wife and children. We were lucky to pass through immigration control and stayed in a room near Gatwick overnight. Next day we got tickets for Canada, but when we arrived at the airport to go to Canada we were stopped at the check-in point. We were told we had committed an illegal act, but we were desperate. I told the immigration service the whole story of where I was coming from. I was very scared. I was detained and put in a cell. The Spanish authorities were contacted by the immigration service and my story was confirmed. I would have been happy if I was released and sent back to Spain as I requested. There I hoped that with the help of the agent I would eventually be able to join my relatives in Canada who would look after me. But instead I was detained for almost two months. I was then released from detention without anybody telling me what to do or where to go. I had no documentation to travel and I sought help from the Iranian community. They advised me to seek asylum in this country because there was no way for me anymore to get to my relatives in Canada and I could be deported back to Iran. I applied for asylum in February 1996. I was interviewed on 15 March when I was provided with Sal2 IND ≠ the standard acknowledgement letter which signifies the beginning of the asylum process. So I decided that despite all my misfortune I had to make a life for myself here. At the beginning I was devastated and very scared because I could not speak any English and I was suffering from culture shock. I sought help too for my psychological condition since I was traumatised after being tortured by the Islamic Regime in Iran. I introduced myself to the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture and received therapy for two years. After being here for eight months I enrolled in the North West College to learn English. After obtaining a certificate for language there I went on to higher education and I started a National Diploma in Business and Finance in Grey's Inn College. Before I completed this course I was offered a place at the North London (Metropolitan University) so I left college to start at the university. For nearly five years I did not receive any word or decision from the Home Office despite efforts by my solicitors, who wrote various letters to Home Office, to obtain a decision in my case. Then finally after the intervention from my MP, Glenda Jackson, in 2001, I was given my refusal papers. I now had to discontinue my studies because my status was changed. I had already started working at B&Q as a part time job to help with my studies but I had an accident at work which left me with amnesia. I appealed against the Home Office decision but when the court heard my case in March 2001 I was not in a fit psychological state to be able to defend myself. My case was rejected again despite the fact that Iran was not a safe country to return to. The judge decision was unfair and he did not take cognizance of my conversion to Christianity from Islam. This was seen as merely as a tactic to further my case. The judge made conclusions without consulting any church minister or conducting any investigation that might indicate whether or not Iran was a safe country to return people to. On the other hand, the report which was made on my private life said that the connections I had made in the UK were minimal. Then I appealed the decision to the immigration tribunal and my case was rejected again. The trust I had put in my lawyers to handle my case was misplaced. Many asylum seekers are let down by their lawyers, unfortunately. The lawyers often do not invest the time needed to win the case. After the final appeal my job and residence was taken away and I was left destitute. I had no right to work, no entitlement to any benefit - I was condemned to die without committing any crime - and all this when I was very ill. From 2002 I survived on the streets, living on other people's mercy especially on charity organisations. Out of despair and frustration I twice attempted to take my own life because I could not cope with the de-humanisation that I experienced. I was saved by others. During years of suffering, many people became aware of my plight and the abuse and neglect that I was receiving from the system. In the last two years I came to attention of Christian groups and church leaders, as well as national and international humanitarian organisations, all of whom have tried so hard to help me and house me and get my case sorted out. But most of their time and efforts have met with rejection by the authorities, so we are getting nowhere. I have spent almost 11 years of my life in this country and must be among the longest-running asylum cases here. I am now at a different phase in my struggle. I have recently graduated as a Human Rights Activist after doing a course organised by Amnesty International. I would like to see the day when no-one who is fleeing from persecution and oppressive regimes will have to go through what I have been through. I would like to help to create a tolerant society where as a nation we welcome people who are seeking freedom and peace, which I see as God-given right for all from the time we are born. And I would like us - people like myself - to be given the right to have a life and make a positive contribution to this society. We are trying to show the British people that we are not monsters, as some of the tabloid press would like people to believe, merely to boost their sales. We are just human being who deserve some empathy because tomorrow who knows what can happen to any of us. Afshin Azizian July 2006 See also Ellen Teague's report today: Asylum seeker brings case against deportation to Downing Street
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