Article published: Friday, February 1st 2013
Fears have been raised over the safety of a detained Manchester-based journalist who fled death threats in Iraq and narrowly averted deportation due to a last minute legal challenge.
The Manchester and Salford National Union of Journalists (NUJ) branch and Manchester Refugee Support Network (MRSN) have called for the right to asylum of Rzhwan Amin, a 32 year old Iraqi journalist and NUJ member from Kirkuk who has been based in Manchester since 2010.
They believe his life may be at serious risk should he be made to return to Iraq. Amin fled over the content of a political article he wrote around the time of the country’s fraught general election in March 2010 that criticised the state of Iraqi politics.
He claims he was subjected to harassment and death threats by a leading Kurdish political party before being summoned by them to a meeting to discuss his journalism. He left for the UK after being warned by a friend that it was a trap.
Amin, who had been living in Tameside, was detained on the 8th January when he went to report to the Dallas Court Home Office Reporting Centre in Salford after the UK Border Agency (UKBA) refused his latest claim for asylum.
His lawyers this week successfully lodged an application for judicial review at the High Court which prevented his enforced deportation to Iraq, planned for the 30th January. He will remain in detention at Morton Hall immigration removal centre in Lincolnshire unless granted bail. A decision on his case may take several months.
The Manchester and Salford NUJ branch believe there is substantial evidence to support his right to remain in the UK.
Kath Grant, secretary of the branch, said: “We were struck by the fact that he has been persecuted because of the journalistic work he has done in Kirkuk. We have evidence from journalists in Iraq which supports his story.
“We believe it would be a breach of his right to freedom of expression for the government to forcibly deport him from the UK. He’s a journalist who was doing his job and was threatened over his work.
“We are very pleased that the flight was cancelled but the campaign will continue until asylum is granted.”
Amin wrote political reports for newspapers in Baghdad and Kirkuk, an area that is the centre of disputes between Arabic and Kurdish groups over its control and is home to some of the country’s largest oil fields.
His defence have argued that the documents supporting his second claim for asylum which provided evidence of the volatile political situation in Iraq and his story were not adequately addressed by the Home Office and subsequent court tribunals. These included statements from Reporters Without Borders, Kirkuk-based journalists, the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory of Iraq and the NUJ.
The president of the International Federation of Journalists has also written to the UKBA in support of Rzhwan’s asylum claim.
Recent statistics obtained by Global IntAKE and the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate support allegations of harassment of journalists in Iraq. They state that in between 75 -105 media personnel and organisations faced violence, threats or detention during 2012.
Reporters without borders believes violence towards journalists is again increasing in the country to higher than 2008 levels.
For Amin, anxieties over what these recent events mean for his asylum claim have not been calmed.
He said, “I’m quite hopeful about the review but uncertain as to what a rejection of my claim could mean for any deportation attempts in the future.
“I am really worried about what will happen with my case. The situation has been very stressful and has made me incredibly anxious.”
Since arriving in the UK Amin has been an active member in several voluntary organisations in Manchester including MRSN and as a case worker for the British Red Cross where he completed an NVQ level three in Advice and Guidance. He is currently studying Public Sector Professions and Psychology and has been offered a conditional offer to study at the University of Salford in September.
David Heyes MP and the UKBA were unable to comment on his case.
Messages to raise awareness of Rzhwan’s case should be sent to Home Secretary Theresa May at firstname.lastname@example.org
and Minister of State for Immigration Mark Harper at email@example.com
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