The charity Asylum Link Merseyside has said refugees suffering from mental health conditions are being unfairly targeted by the Home Office to be returned to their home countries.
The charity says that some of the most vulnerable asylum seekers and refugees who are mentally unfit are being sent back to their home countries without having access to a proper psychological assessment in the UK.
Asylum seekers who may have been victims of torture are among those being returned to their homelands. A spokesman for Asylum Link Merseyside – who called the practice “horrible” – told The Guardian:
“This is a concerted attempt to deport those with mental illness – it ties in with attempts to whittle down the backlog of such cases as quickly as possible.”
It is alleged an asylum seeker from Pakistan due to receive urgent psychiatric assessment was moved to another removal centre by the Home Office before a doctor or lawyer could see him.
Efforts to get the man, Kashani Jamil, 34, released were “ignored” after a Rule 35 request by his caseworker at Asylum Link Merseyside was turned down.
Under Rule 35 of the Detention Centre Rules 2001, “particularly vulnerable detainees” can be released for assessment by a doctor.
The British Red Cross, Refugee Action and a mosque in Merseyside all raised concerns as to whether Mr Jamil was able to answer for himself because of his mental state – but his case worker Durani Rapozo says he was unable to see a lawyer or a doctor before deportation back to Pakistan, where he was allegedly left to look after himself on the streets of Karachi.
Under the Human Rights Act and UK immigration law, refugees must receive psychological assessment and health checks when they arrive in the UK.
Durani Rapozo of Asylum Link Merseyside said:
“The Home Office moved Jamil from one detention to another to avoid him being seen by solicitors and doctors so that he did not have proper health assessments.”
Mr Rapozo is a complex needs social worker and requested a Rule 35 after Mr Jamil revealed he had been tortured by the Taliban in his native Pakistan – and forced to drink kerosene by his torturers.
Mr Rapozo said that moving Mr Jamil the day before he was due to be assessed by a doctor was a breach of his human rights:
“This should not happen in 21st-century Britain and makes me as a professional ashamed of our asylum system.
“Rushing to deport a vulnerable client with mental health needs who is a victim of torture is immoral and degrading – hence constitutes a breach of his human rights,” he said.
The Home Office responded by saying that requesting a Rule 35 does not necessarily mean that release from detention would be granted, as in some circumstances it might be deemed appropriate. A Home Office spokesman said:
“We take the health of those in our care seriously and aim to ensure anyone in detention is treated with dignity and care.
“All detainees have access to medical teams – an individual suffering from a serious mental illness will only be held in detention in exceptional circumstances.
“All cases are carefully considered on their individual facts.”
After Mr Jamil‘s return to Pakistan, Asylum Link Merseyside contacted his sister in the United Arab Emirates, where he now is.
However, it is likely Mr Jamil will have to return to Pakistan in the near future as he only has a temporary visa.
His case worker has written to the Home Office Affairs Select Committee calling for an investigation into the case:
“The Home office dumped Jamil in Karachi and they lost all his belongings and diary that had vital contact numbers for family/friends in Pakistan and he is struggling with hearing voices,” said Durani Rapozo.
Mr Rapozo is alleging that the detention of Mr Jamil “worsened his health” and letters are available which show “how traumatised he was in detention”.
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