Asylum Seekers (Heathrow)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 3:59 pm on 11th May 1987.

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Photo of Jeremy Corbyn Jeremy Corbyn , Islington North 3:59 pm, 11th May 1987

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 20, for the purpose of discussing a specific and important matter that should have urgent consideration, namely, the refusal of the Home Office to refer the refugee applications of 36 Iraqi Kurds held at terminal 2, Heathrow to the United Kingdom Immigration Advisory Service, the circumstances that led to suicide attempts by some of the asylum seekers, and their continued unauthorised detention. Last weekend, three groups of 12 Iraqi-Kurdish people arrived at Heathrow airport. They escaped from Iraq into Syria and boarded a plane to the United Kingdom. They travelled on Iraqi passports. When they arrived at Heathrow, they sought political asylum at the airport and asked that their case be considered. The refusal of the immigration officers to grant them political asylum led to removal directions being placed on them to leave this country. I and other hon. Members attempted to put stops on their removal over the weekend, but our efforts were not successful.

There were then a number of protests by the Iraqi Kurds, including two suicide attempts that resulted in two of the Iraqi Kurds being taken to nearby hospitals while the remainder were held either at the police station at Heathrow or at the terminal 2 immigration office. They have not been removed from this country and they are still being held at the airport. They then requested through their friends that their case be referred to the United Kingdom Immigration Advisory Service. This request was denied by the immigration officers concerned, and the denial was confirmed by the Home Office by telephone calls to them today.

I realise that the House has many things to discuss this week, but I feel that this matter is extremely important. First, if these Iraqi Kurds are returned to Syria there is clearly a danger that they would be returned to Iraq, where they would be wanted by the Iraqi Government. 'This means that they would be put in enormous danger of their lives. Secondly, the immigration service at Heathrow airport—this should be a matter of great concern to Parliament—appears to be operating the terms of the Immigration (Carriers' Liability) Bill in their entirety and in detail when that measure has not passed through all its stages in Parliament and has not received Royal Assent; and in the light of the business statement that we have heard today, it is unlikely that it will be passed into law this week. This calls into question the operation of the immigration service and the safety of the 36 Iraqi Kurds concerned.

A debate would give the Home Secretary the opportunity to explain to the House what his attitude is towards these genuine asylum seekers and whether he is prepared to consider their case individually, which he is bound to do within the terms of the 1951 Geneva convention, of which the United Kingdom is a signatory.