Saturday, October 15, 2011

UK: Welcome to the asylum

Earlier this year, a 36-year-old Somali man arrived in Britain and claimed asylum. He told Border Agency officials he had left his home in Mogadishu because he feared for his life and had paid around £650 to be smuggled here. He was, he said, a member of the Ashraf clan, one of the smaller ethnic groupings in Somalia.

As such he was at particular danger from al-Shabaab, a notorious terrorist group of Islamist militants currently locked in bloody battle with the government and sworn enemies of the clan.

Indeed, the man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, claimed that its followers had one day approached him at his market stall, taken him to a terror camp and threatened him. And so he felt he had no option but to leave his wife and flee the country, heading to Britain and safety.

Tanbir Morshed, (far left) is not married to Agneszka Litwin (second left) — but, under immigration regulations, had to prove only that he was in a ‘durable relationship’. Meanwhile, Elizabeth Odei, (second right) from Ghana, said she relied on a church's charity for 21 years, while Albanian Artan Neziraj, (far right), admitted he has a gambling problem.

It’s a fascinating, detailed story and one, no doubt, that immigration officials must hear regularly. Last year alone, almost 600 Somalis applied for asylum in the UK. It is also totally untrue.

The man did not belong to the Ashraf clan, but, in fact, comes from the Hawiye, the dominant grouping in Mogadishu. And neither he, nor anyone from his family, had ever been threatened by anyone from al-Shabaab.

His story was a complete fabrication designed to improve his chances of being granted asylum in this country. He had been coached to say what he did by fellow countrymen both in Somalia and here in Britain, well versed in how to best play our immigration system.

The man’s deceit emerged only at the very last minute of a hearing in Central London on Wednesday. Ironically, he decided to come clean after experts whom his own legal team had hired to back his case delivered a report stating that his story simply did not stack up. Backed in to a corner, he admitted he had lied.

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