Darfur Asylum Seekers (Removals)

Oral Answers to Questions — Communities and Local Government – in the House of Commons at 3:31 pm on 27th March 2007.

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Photo of John Bercow John Bercow Conservative, Buckingham 3:31 pm, 27th March 2007

I beg to ask leave to move the Adjournment of the House, under Standing Order No. 24, to discuss a specific and important matter, namely,

"the removal by the Home Office to Khartoum of failed asylum seekers from Darfur."

The immediate pretext for my request is the fact that the Home Office is minded tomorrow to remove no fewer than three such people on flights to Khartoum, and there are plans for further removals next week. One example that illustrates the argument comes to mind: Mohammed Abdulhaddi Ali is a black African from the Zaghawa tribe who has demonstrated outside the Sudanese embassy in London and who is a known opponent of the Sudanese Government. I submit to the House that he would be at risk of persecution if he were returned to Khartoum.

The Government have signed up to the principle of non-refoulement—they accept that they have a responsibility not to return people to states in which there is a serious risk of those people being subject to the death penalty, torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The burden of the Government and Home Office argument is that it is unsafe to return people to Darfur but safe to do so to Khartoum.

My contention to this House is that there are a number of reasons why it would not be safe to return people to Khartoum. There is sporadic but intense fighting between the Government and a variety of rebel forces. It would not be safe to return people to Khartoum, where the national intelligence and security service is based and where it is constantly on the lookout for returnees. It would not be safe to return people who bear tribal scars and who are immediately identifiable by hostile authorities. It would not be safe to return people when we know from the published evidence of the Aegis Trust of a great many cases of people who have been returned only to be subject to intimidation, harassment or substantially worse.

"Safe as Ghost Houses", which was published last year by the Aegis Trust and authored by Sarah Maguire, is explicit on the issue. The evidence is on the record, and the Government have not issued an intelligible or coherent response to it. It is unsafe to return people when the Sudanese embassy is hand in glove with the Home Office to get people out, with God knows what consequences for those vulnerable people. It is not safe to return people such as those whom I saw last year. I saw video evidence about a man who was returned from this country and who was then brutally attacked and tortured by the Sudanese authorities.

I put it to the House that we have responsibilities—the country has a responsibility, the Government have a responsibility and this House has a responsibility to very vulnerable people. To kick them out would be wrong and precipitate. The matter must be debated, and debated urgently.

Photo of Michael Martin Michael Martin Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission, Speaker of the House of Commons, Chair, Speaker's Committee on the Electoral Commission

I have listened carefully to what the hon. Gentleman has said. I must give him my decision without stating any reasons. I am afraid that I do not consider that the matter raised is appropriate for discussion under Standing Order No. 24, and I cannot therefore submit the application to the House.