A Chance to Fight 12

Am here in Accra and have picked up the vital news from Bob Marshall-Andrew’s office, that Jahongir Sidikov’s deportation has been postponed so his case can be reviewed. This is great news, but it gives us no more than a chance to fight. It makes further representations now still more urgent and important. This is particularly so in view of the Home Office’s initial reply to Bob Marshall-Andrews:

“The problem I have is that the correspondence you enclose from a Ms Catherine Brown appears to have no connection with Mr Sidikov. I know you will understand that Home Office records on individuals have to be treated as confidential and cannot be disclosed to third parties. As you are not Mr Sidikov’s MP and as Ms Brown has no connection with his case, you will appreciate that I am therefore prevented from discussing the details of this case with you. Please be assured, however, that the information you have submitted will be placed on file and will be fully considered by the Border and Immigration Agency before a final decision is made on Mr Sidikov’s case. In more general terms, I confirm that it is Home Office policy to remove political dissidents to Uzbekistan, if the independent judiciary has deemed an asylum claim to have no basis.”

I think this must rank with the most astonishing phrases ever uttered by a British government:

I confirm that it is Home Office policy to remove political dissidents to Uzbekistan

The temporary suspension of Sidikov’s deportation does not affect that policy. It is a policy which is vicious in the extreme as we know perfectly well what happens to political dissidents in Uzbekistan. I think the sentence above is in itself indicative of the hole in the soul of New Labour, and sufficient reason never to even consider voting for them again.

That policy needs to be challenged. So does the “fast track” system by which Sidikov went from hearing to appeal to deportation in just a fortnight. We were told the “fast track” was for prima facie spurious cases from “safe” countries like Belgium. How on earth could a dissident from the worst country in the world to send a dissident get fast-tracked?

It was the fast track procedure that directly caused the failure of Sidikov’s appeal. His solicitor had under a week’s notice of the date, and witnesses – including myself, who was in Africa – could not make it for the hearing at that notice. The judge then refused to accept written evidence from several witnesses living abroad, on the grounds she could not be certain of the authenticity of the statements. She did not give time to establish their authenticity, just refused to accept them. She suggested they were forged because they had similar grammatical errors such as incorrect use of the definite and indefinite article. That was because they were all written by Uzbeks who do not have the article – my Uzbek partner always makes the same mistake in English. I know for certain that the statements were authentic. The judge’s behaviour was a disgrace, and let me be plain I do have contempt of her court, deep contempt. But she was merely indicative of the general mindset of the “Fast-track”, a disgraceful device by which the government seeks to curry favour with the tabloids by increasing deportation numbers.

Boosting New Labour with focus groups infinitely outweighs the torture to death of the odd dissident.

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12 thoughts on “A Chance to Fight

  • kazbel

    I feel enormous relief and great shame at the actions of court and government. I am furious that safeguarding privacy is used as a reason not to discuss details of cases (I've heard this one before). Evidently disclosing private details which might help an asylum-seekers case is regarded as gross breach of individual rights – sending the same individual back to torture and death is, however, quite acceptable.

  • Raven

    In the above instance, of course, the refusal to discuss private details is intended to imply that they have special knowledge which they refuse to share with us. In fact they have less knowledge of the case than we do, so the subterfuge is a bust. As Craig has pointed out, the judge refused to accept or even to confirm the authenticity of what special knowledge of the case existed. Again, as an expatriate Brit, I am ashamed of my government.

    Having written to the prime minister's office and the foreign and home offices once on the matter, I would be interested to hear others' suggestions for further action. Is it all up to court representation now, or is there cause to continue to agitate in the political realm?

  • Cide Hamete Benengel

    If Craig or readers would recommend some names and addresses, we can have amazon send them gift copies of Murder in Samarkand pronto. (My budget will stretch to 10-20 copies.)

    This might make some difference with civil servants or other officials who have some influence but are genuinely uninformed. (It does appear, for example, that if the judge had been better informed, the "fast-track" decision would have been different.) I presume a public official's office address is public information, so they cannot hide behind the confidentiality argument here.

  • Sabretache

    My guess is that it was the Tuesday evening Channel 4 news item that tipped the balance and won the reprieve. It was a powerful extended piece with copious interview inserts with Craig. It seems to me that 'more of the same' offers the best prospect of turning the reprieve into a confirmation, especially if it can be presented as a political rather than mere administrative matter, which of course it is. Politicians are petrified of 'bad' publicity and that was bad. They are likely to be responsive to more like it. The last thing Jacqui Smith (and the entire government) want right now is to be forced into a public defence of the Uzbek regime. On the other hand, an opportunity for them to show their deeply compassionate and caring natures could prove irresistible.

    So more work on Channel 4 plus weighty Guardian/Times/Telegraph/Independent articles are what is needed

  • Roger Whittaker

    I have had a reply from Paul Burstow MP, who wrote:

    I was very concerned by the points you raised. I have written to David Miliband, the Foreign Secretary, enclosing a copy of your e-mail and the accompanying article and asking for hist comments. I have chosen to take this via the Foreign Office rather than the Home Office, as would be usual in cases of deportation, since the main thrust of Mr Murray's arguments seem to be challenging the operation of out consular staff overseas.

  • QT

    MEDIA: There are no (0) results for "Sidikov" on the Independent, Guardian or Telegraph websites. It is a disgrace.

    The Times gives 1 result but it is completely unrelated to this case. That Channel 4 report would appear to be the ONE piece of mainstream media coverage.

    If anyone's got any suggestions how to move forward in this regard it would be great to have some ideas to try.

    MPs: Great work by Bob Marshall-Andrew. It would be good to know who actually IS Sidikov's constituency MP (would someone who is here 'illegally' even *have* an MP?) and what their response to contact if any has been made was.

    OFFICIALS: Cide's idea is worth following up. I and I'm sure other bloggers too would be happy to donate if e.g. a PayPal was set up for that. There must be someone involved in this who has a conscience and doesn't realise what they are doing.

  • elfknight

    I have had a reply from Sir Michael Spicer MP, who says he has taken up our concerns over deportation to Uzbekistan with the appropriate Minister.

  • David

    I came to this rather late, but its good news that there is at least a delay. I had a holding reply from my MP, Christine McCafferty, who is awaiting a response from the Home Office. Most troubling is this apparent policy decision by the Home office. As far as I can tell the Border and Immigration Agency still have no published Operational Guidance

    Notes on Uzbekistan, and there are no Country of Origin Information Service

    reports. I suspect that there has never been a COI fact-finding mission to

    Uzbekistan' [Craig might correct me on that latter point?]

    All in all, its amazing. It would be interesting to try a FOI application to find documents related to this policy decision.

    As with other commentators, I agree it does seem astonishing that not a single newspaper has covered this story. Still, I'm happy the Guardian found space for 1,000 words on Victoria Beckham's LA outfits today.

  • NickW

    This is pretty dreadful. I'm appalled by the Home Office's attitude. With an upcoming presidential election in Uzbekistan (I wonder who'll win … ? hmmm) now would be a good time to highlight human rights abuses in Uzbekistan – instead the Home Office seems to believe political dissidents are 'safe' in Uzbekistan.

  • jungle

    It's sad, but the government's stance on this issue has really stopped surprising me now. The fact is that the orders from central government on this issue are to automatically reject as many applications as possible on any and all technicalities, and screw the stupid applicants who happen to be in the way.

    Apparently, for some bizarre reason, both major political parties fervently believe that by forcing asylum acceptances down the tabloids will stop criticising them on asylum.

    Of course, nothing short of killing asylum seekers at random – in fact demonstrably not even that, since we appear to be effectively doing that now – will stop the tabloids claiming the government is 'soft' on immigration. It sells papers, so it will be written.

    It's time a political party or two dug deep and found some moral fibre (or just basic logic), and stopped sacrificing human lives in order to appease a media monster that doesn't have the remotest intention of ever being appeased.

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