Ama’s death "on Britain’s conscience"

The death of cancer patient Ama Sumani will be on the conscience of this nation, according to the Archbishop of Wales.
Ama Sumani, 39, died yesterday in Korle-Bu hospital, Accra, Ghana, after she had been forcibly removed from Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales in January.
The widowed mother-of-two had been taken from her hospital bed in Cardiff while undergoing treatment because her visa had expired.
The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said today: “I am enormously sad to hear of the death of Ama Sumani.
“I believe her death is on the conscience of this nation because we removed her when it was against every humanitarian instinct to do so.
“My thoughts and prayers are with her family.”
:: Ama’s deportation and the treatment of asylum seekers, refugees and immigrants in Wales has been discussed extensively on What Is Wales?

Asylum seekers and Cardiff Prison

There have been rumours about the housing of asylum seekers at Cardiff Prison.
South Wales Anarchists Gagged! Newsletter and Respectable Citizen have both reported claims that the jail has again been used to make up for a lack of space at detention centres.
Although it’s not a devolved issue I contacted the Welsh Assembly Government about the rumours. A number of assembly members campaigned against the practice when asylum seekers were held in the jail back in 2001 and 2004.
WAG assured me last week that it is not happening. Read more in the current edition of Big Issue Cymru (Jan 13-20).
UPDATE: See ‘comments’ section.

Also, please check out if you can my friend John Gilheaney’s blog Save Llantrisant Post Office.

Asylum decisions in the air

Should commercial airlines sell seats to allow the Government to forcibly return asylum seekers?
The issue’s been brewing since early last year – but it’s not one airlines themselves are particularly eager to discuss.
Take the case of Veneera Aliyeva.
Veneera settled so successfully in Swansea with her two children that when immigration officers came to take them away, the community campaigned for her.
The campaign continues although, as I write, the family had finally been released from a detention centre by the Home Office pending a possible judicial review. The threat of expulsion from the UK still loomed over them.
If they are forced to return to Azerbaijan they will do so on an airline in seats you or I’d use for our holidays.
Twice the family has been marked down for return, both times on British Midland Airways (bmi) flights from Heathrow.
When I contacted bmi to ask whether it would abandon these flights, it responded with classic meaningless PR.
“bmi is not at liberty to discuss the details of any of its passengers, under the terms of the Data Protection Act, and we do not wish to get drawn into a debate over Home Office policy. I suggest you contact the Home Office for further details of the case you describe.”
Veneera is a 40-year-old ethnic Armenian. Since a war between Azeris and Armenians in the early 1990s tensions have been high. More than 600,000 remain displaced from their homes, according to Amnesty International, despite a 1994 ceasefire.
Veneera is married to an Azeri and kept her own ethnicity secret until she was seen visiting her mother’s grave in an Armenian graveyard.
The harassment began and, according to Asylum Justice, she was beaten and raped.
Campaigners, then, are concerned for her safety if she is made to return.
So note how bmi publicly absolves itself of responsibility.
It says it can’t discuss the fact that Veneera is being flown back to all possible horrors because of the awful DPA – ie, to protect her privacy as a passenger.
Note also the swish of the bat which knocks the issue in the direction of the Home Office.
The airline – whose subsidiary bmi baby flies out of Cardiff International – should take responsibility for its actions. If it is proud to be carrying out government policy then why not say so?
Other airlines who make these flights have previously intimated that they have no choice but to do the Government’s bidding. But the Home Office says they can turn down these unwilling passengers.
In fact, earlier this year XL Airways said it would no longer take part in these flights out of “sympathy for all dispossessed persons in the world”.
Will we be a better country, or bmi a better company, if Veneera and her children are forced somewhere they do not want to go?

:: From Big Issue Cymru, December 27, 2007-January 6, 2008

Swansea asylum family returns

Good news in the case of Veneera Aliyeva and her two children, Anna and Murat.
According to Keith Ross, of Asylum Justice, the family has returned to Swansea after being released from Yarl’s Wood detention centre.
“The family were released by the Home Office this afternoon ‘pending the outcome of the children’s judicial application’,” Keith explained.
The children, who are just 13 and 11, were supported by Maria Battle, Deputy Children’s Commissioner for Wales, who this week told me their detention at Yarls Wood was in breach of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child.
The family remains under the threat of forcible removal to Azerbaijan. Lawyers are currently seeking a judicial review into the case.
If that fails Veneera and the children could find themselves marked down for seats on another removal flight.
::I’ve been looking at the way airlines are used by the Government to forcibly return people to countries they do not want to go for Big Issue Cymru.
I believe it will be in the issue which comes out on December 27 – something to digest along with turkey stew, turkey sandwiches, etc.

Asylum Justice

This week’s Big Issue Cymru highlights the case of young mum Veneera Aliyeva who the government is trying to deport to Azerbaijan.
She is currently in Yarl’s Wood removal centre with her two children.
But campaigners in Swansea, where she has lived for more than a year, are trying to get her returned to South Wales.
According to Asylum Justice, 40-year-old Veneera (sometimes Venera) has been persecuted on two counts in Azerbaijan: because she is a Baptist and an Armenian.
During several years of persecution, she went through a series of horrific experiences, including being raped twice.
Asylum Justice, supported by Bethan Jenkins AM, is also trying to help another resident of Swansea.
Zola Gidi has lived in the city for 16 years. She is described as “a wonderful neighbour”, “a loyal friend”, “an extremely hard worker” and “generally a good member of the community”.
All the same, she now faces forcible removal to South Africa.

Race to the May Poll

The British National Party will launch its manifesto for the National Assembly elections tomorrow.
It is fielding 20 candidates on May 3 – its largest campaign so far in Wales.
Its teaser ahead of the launch is for a pledge to “tear down the Severn Bridge toll-gates, and in their place erect a monumental bronze statue of Rebecca to symbolise the right to freedom of movement in Wales”.
The action would, it says, act “as a reminder to all who pass, of the heritage of the Welsh people”.
The party’s continual references to heritage and tradition provide clues of its underlying obsession – race. The campaign might make it appear that the party has moved into the mainstream, but the unpleasantness remains.
However, the BNP seems confident that it will soon have a representative in Wales – not at the assembly, but perhaps following next year’s council elections.
Take a look at the new edition of The Big Issue Cymru, out from Monday, to see a breakdown of the history of the BNP in Wales – and an analysis of its future.