'They Gave Me $100 and Told Me to Fend for Myself in Baghdad'

Published on
by
The Independent/UK

'They Gave Me $100 and Told Me to Fend for Myself in Baghdad'

Asylum-seeker deported from UK explains why he fears for his life

by
Kim Sengupta and Gaylan al-Ogaidy in Baghdad

Abu Yousif: 'This is still a very dangerous place. People in England must realise that.' (The Independent/UK)

Abu Yousif is back home, back to Baghdad, where
his brother was murdered and where, he believes, the same fate awaits
him in the hands of the vengeful killers.

Every day is spent living in fear that the gunmen will hunt him down. "They
have not gone away from here. I am afraid of what could happen. I only sleep
a little, and then I wake up and think, is this going to be my last day,
wondering what is going to happen to my family," he says. "This is
still a very dangerous place. People in England must realise that."

Mr Yousif, a 39-year-old engineer, was one of 40 Iraqis thrown out of Britain,
where they had sought asylum, because the Home Office decided that their
homeland was now a safe place to live. It was the first time that a return
to Baghdad had been attempted since the start of the Iraq war in 2003.

To the huge embarrassment of the British Government, 30 of the deportees were
refused entry by the Iraqi officials and sent back. Ten others were taken
off the plane with UK officials who promised that the local embassy would
look after them. What actually happened, says Mr Yousif, was that they were
given $100 each and told to fend for themselves.

Human rights groups, churches and refugee charities have condemned the British
authorities for insisting on the deportation to a place visited daily by
murderous attacks. A spokesman for Amnesty International said: "Given
the reports of killings, bombings and other human rights abuses that
continue to come out of Baghdad, it is hard to comprehend that the UK
Government considers it a safe place to return people."

Mr Yousif has now been back in Baghdad for three days, most of which, he says,
have been spent in a room at the house of a friend.

"I cannot go back to live at home because I am told that is being watched,"
he told The Independent yesterday. "I do not even like leaving the room
at my friend's home because I am always nervous. I think that I will be at
risk from these same people who killed my brother. I do not know how long I
can stay with my friend - he will be at risk as well. I keep a bag packed in
case I have to move suddenly."

Mr Yousif said that each of the detainees had two guards alongside them during
the flight to Iraq. The atmosphere was fraught, with many of those being
sent back in obvious distress.

Mr Yousif and the others also received $45 each from immigration officials who
said there was nothing more they could do. "I was wandering around, I
felt lost. Then I got a taxi to my friend's place. Luckily he and his family
were there and they took me in. The money is running out fast, and I am not
sure how I will support myself."

Mr Yousif met The Independent at a public location in central Baghdad, which
he considered to be comparatively safe. His voice was strained as he
described how his life had unravelled, his eyes darting around, trying to
spot signs of danger. He had been convinced several times during the journey
to the meeting that he was being followed.

Mr Yousif has not seen his wife and two children or his parents for more than
three years. They went into hiding after the death of his brother, Sabah,
and it is safer for them, he felt, not to be with him.

The chain of violence which led to the murder of Sabah and Mr Yousif fleeing
Iraq began when he started working for an international company, Global,
engaged in security work for the US military and Iraqi ministries.

"I have a degree from the technical university here, but this was 2004
and it was very, very difficult to get jobs. Working for foreigners made you
a target, but I needed the money to feed my family," he said. "I
worked for them for two years, and then the terrorists must have found out
about my job. I was sent an envelope with a bullet in it and a warning that
I would be killed unless I stopped working for the company.

"I did not want to put my family in danger, my wife was very afraid, and
I decided to leave the job. My brother went to the offices to pick up some
documents for me and after he left he was murdered. They shot him in the
head and then they disfigured the body with knives. They had mistaken him
for me.

"My parents blamed me for what had happened, for working for a foreign
company, and I do not think even now they have forgiven me."

Mr Yousif was advised by friends to leave the country. He paid $8,000 to a
Kurdish group who took him through northern Iraq, Turkey and then across
Europe in a truck to Dover. He walked into a police station in April 2006,
saying he was an asylum-seeker. He was held in a detention centre in
Cambridge while his application was processed. He appeared before a
tribunal, where his case was rejected.

"I was told that Iraq was now a free country and I would be sent back
because it was safe. The same week there were bombs in Baghdad with a lot of
people blown up."

Mr Yousif was put on notice of deportation but given temporary leave to
remain. He stayed with an Iraqi family for almost three-and-a-half years in
Dover. At the end of last month he was told to report to a detention centre.
He was held there for two weeks, then put on the flight to Baghdad.

"When I got to England, I thought I was safe at last. I thought I would
be able to take my family over there and we could start a life away from all
the trouble and the violence.

"All the British people I had met in Baghdad said it was a good place,
and a fair place, and I believed them."

He shakes his head. "Now I do not know what will happen to me. I have
lost everything, I feel there is just darkness ahead of me."

The asylum-seeker's name was changed.

Week of violence: Attacks wreak havoc in Iraq

Wednesday

At least seven people are killed after gold merchants are robbed in Shula
district, Baghdad. The gunmen use grenades to make their escape. Three bombs
explode in Karbala, one of the holiest cities for Shia Muslims, killing at
least three.

Monday

An attack in Buhriz, north of Baghdad, kills the town's mayor and injures his
two sons.

Tuesday

A suicide bomber kills eight in Buhriz, according to police, in an attack
which they say is targeted at the leader of a Sunni paramilitary group
backed by the US.

Thursday

An Iraqi soldier is killed by a roadside bomb in an attack in Baghdad's
Adhamiya district. Two soldiers and a civilian are also wounded.

Friday

A man opens fire in a mosque in Tal Afar, northern Iraq, before blowing
himself up: at least 15 die. An Iraqi soldier is killed by a suicide car
bomber at a checkpoint west of Mosul.

Saturday

A bridge near Ramadi on a road used by US forces is destroyed by a suicide
bomber who blows up a truck loaded with dynamite. A roadside bomb outside
Fallujah kills four Iraqi soldiers.

Yesterday

Two killed in Haswa by a roadside bomb.

Sources: AP; Reuters

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