UK

Asylum seeker claims he was hit, kicked and pushed before Rwanda deportation flight

An asylum seeker who was due on the UK’s first deportation flight to Rwanda has claimed he was hit, kicked and pushed by security officers while he was held in detention.

Zahir, whose name has been changed, fled Iraq two months ago and arrived in the UK in March, before being told he would be deported under the government’s new migration policy.

He has been held in Colnbrook House detention centre near Heathrow Airport while waiting to board the first flight to Rwanda – which was abruptly halted on Tuesday.

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Speaking to Sky’s home editor Jason Farrell, he described how security officers, working for the private firm Mitie, entered his holding room and took him by his hands and feet.

“It was four of them, two of them take my hands, others take my feet and one of them grabbed my head,” he said.

Once he was down on the floor, Zahir explained that he told officers he was coming with them, and they did not need to use force.

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“They hit us, kick us and they push us through doors,” he added.

Zahir said he was then put inside a van and told that if he moved “too much”, they would “tie” him up.

“When we got to the airport, I see my friends. They had tied their feet – the four of them (security officers) had tied them up,” he said.

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The 25-year-old had travelled 3,500 miles through Turkey and Europe after fleeing Iraq, mostly in the back of a lorry organised by human traffickers.

He eventually arrived in Calais, where he spent nine days before crossing the English Channel to reach the UK.

Less than a month later, he was informed by officials that he would be one of the first people placed on the deportation flight.

The plane was expected to leave for Rwanda on Tuesday night but was stopped after the European Court of Human Rights issued injunctions to prevent the migrants from being deported just 40 minutes before take-off.

‘Don’t say sorry, I’m very happy’

Zahir never made it onto the plane, being told his ticket had been cancelled after arriving at Boscombe Down in Amesbury, where the flight was due to depart from.

“They told me ‘sorry your ticket has been cancelled’, I said don’t say sorry, I’m very happy”.

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Despite the flight not going ahead, Home Secretary Priti Patel has said the government will continue to pursue its policy, which has come under heavy criticism.

The government argues that the scheme will deter migrants from being exploited by people traffickers taking them on the perilous journey across the English Channel.

Mitie said in a statement that “restraint is only used as a last resort” to ensure the safety of those travelling and its staff members.

“This includes the prevention of injury or self-harm. Our focus is on treating the people in our care with dignity and respect, and we are confident that our officers have acted professionally,” it added.

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