UKBA: protecting our borders once again

This Wednesday at 00.10 hours, a chartered deportation flight of refused Afghan asylum seekers is due to fly from London to Kabul, escorted by guards from the private security firm Reliance Secure Task Management, which took over responsibility for escorting such flights in May last year, following the death of the Angolan asylum seeker Jimmy Mubenga at the hands of G4S guards.

The flight should have left today, but was rescheduled for unknown reasons.  Such flights form part of the UK’s conveyor belt deportation programme for refused Afghan asylum seekers known as Operation Ravel which organizes similar flights on a more-or-less fortnightly basis.

Many of these deportees consist of Afghans who arrive in the UK as unaccompanied minors and are given Discretionary Leave to Remain until they reach the age of eighteen.  One of those due to be deported this week is Aziz Hussini, an eighteen-year-old Afghan who was arrested by UK Border Agency officials on Monday 5 March on the day he was due to be married to 19-year-old Scottish hairdressing student Gemma Vosper.

His fiancée was waiting in her wedding dress at a Glasgow Registry Office, and only found out what had happened when UK Border Agency officers entered wearing bulletproof vests to tell her that they had just arrested her husband-to-be.   Hussini originally arrived in the UK in 2009, and studied computing at Anniesland College in Glasgow.

His fiancée insists that the marriage was not for immigration purposes.  His English tutor has described Hussini as ‘an amazingly dedicated and focused student’ who was ‘ fearing for his life if he had to return to Afghanistan’, while his computer tutor has called him ‘an exceptional student who would be an asset to Scotland.’

To UKBA, Hussini is merely one more Afghan ‘with no right to be in the UK’.   He was to have been deported on 5 March, but the removal flight was postponed following concerns by Reliance regarding the safety of its employees in Afghanistan.

These concerns may well be justified:  on Sunday eight Afghan security personnel and one foreign soldier were killed by an IED in Kandahar province.  According to figures from the UN Mission in Afghanistan, 3,021 civilians were killed in Afghanistan in 2011, an eight percent rise from the previous year.

In February, Amnesty International reported that some half a million Afghans are living as internally displaced persons (IDPs) as a result of the fighting and ‘struggling to survive in makeshift shelters let down by their government and international donors that look the other way.’ 

In February UNHCR declared that its programme of returning nearly five million refugees to Afghanistan since 2002 had been a failure, and that  the Afghan government was unable to reintegrate or absorb many of these returnees.

This is the country that Hussini and his fellow deportees are being returned to.  On the one hand, such deportations reflect the Coalition’s crowd-pleasing pledge to reduce immigration, but they are also a continuation of a seemingly contradictory dynamic that was already evident amongst its predecessors, and which is not limited to Afghanistan.

Throughout the military ‘interventions’ of the last decade, the UK government has insisted that there are certain universal humanitarian  obligations and rights that override established notions about national sovereignty and the inviolability of national borders,  in order to justify military operations abroad.

At the same time the UK  and other European governments have created an elaborate system of immigration controls that routinely restricts or prevents  access to one of the great human rights achievement of the 20th century: the right to refugee protection under the Geneva Convention.

No European government has rejected this principle outright, but many governments have sought to evade their commitments under the Convention in practice.  The UK’s hypocrisy in this regard has been particularly noxious and glaring.

During the occupation of Iraq, the UK forcibly returned even Iraqi translators and interpreters who had worked alongside Coalition troops, regardless of the fact that their lives were in danger.  At the height of Nato’s ‘humanitarian’ bombing campaign in Libya, William Hague publicly rejected the idea that refugees from Libya or other countries in the ‘Arab Spring’ should be allowed to come to Europe or the UK.

These seeming anomalies and contradictions are a consequence of a mutually-reinforcing dynamic between a ‘borderless’ militarism which purports to save the lives of selected nationalities, and fortified domestic borders that are designed to keep out unwanted and superfluous foreigners who are regarded as cultural aliens, parasites or security threats.

The callous decision to remove Aziz Hussini is one more example of this dismal tendency.    The National Campaign of Anti-Deportation Campaigns is fighting a last-ditch campaign to prevent his deportation.

I urge readers to join it, and write to Theresa May,  before  Hussini becomes just another statistic to be presented to the British public at the end of the year as proof of UKBA’s ‘toughness’ and its ability to ‘protect our borders’.