Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Living in Iraq. Stuck in limbo.

By Alexia Saoulli

Iraqi couple have asylum application rejected and nowhere to go.

AN IRAQI couple have been denied political asylum after they failed to show “a well-founded” fear of persecution.

They were also denied subsidiary protection for the same reason.

Kasan Daoud, 49, claims he was detained and tortured at Baghdad’s infamous Abu Ghraib prison for six months, while his wife Soham Alsaid, 35, lost a limb and their unborn child in a bomb attack.

With no access to the labour market or welfare benefits and with only £11 left to their name, three days’ worth of food at home and owing £800 in rent, Daoud and Alsaid yesterday questioned how they were expected to survive.

Immigrant Support Group, KISA, believes they were rejected on grounds of policy.
“The asylum service has a policy of rejecting 99 per cent of applicants because they believe the system is abused. What concerns us is that based on the people that come to us [for help] we feel that if there is any abuse, it’s by the asylum service which is abusing its power,” KISA president Doros Polycarpou said.

Daoud and his wife fled Iraq in March 2005. They arrived in Cyprus via Turkey through the occupied areas in April that year.

The 49-year-old said the pair had decided to run after he was told the Americans wanted to speak to him. Having been imprisoned in Abu Ghraib for six months and a week, where he said he was tortured, Daoud had no intention of letting them get their hands on him.

He has a scar on his nose from where he said he was tied and dragged across the gravel while a soldier stood on his head. Another day, he said his arm was tied above his head while he was forced to stand on one leg in the Baghdad heat for 11 hours without food or water.

“When I heard they needed to speak to me, we left the hotel we had been staying at immediately and moved in with a friend. Fifteen days later we got a visa from the Turkish Embassy and left,” he told the Cyprus Mail.

To this day, although Daoud has some difficulty recalling all the events in sequence, he still remembers his prisoner number: 7016698.

“I don’t understand why they [the asylum service] don’t just talk to the Americans and check my prison number,” he said.

Just before his arrest he said the US authorities had confiscated his valuables including $15,500, 15 million Iraqi Dinar (around $3,500), around 152 grams in gold, dialysis equipment, and his personal laptop. When he was released he was unable to get back his possessions, he said.

During her husband’s detention at Abu Ghraib, Alsaid, who is a horticulturalist, said she did not know where he was.

“I asked the Americans but they told me they didn’t know,” she said.

At the time she was pregnant. Then one day, while she was out with her sister in the car, a bomb explosion cost Alsaid their unborn child and her leg. The woman has a hospital note certifying this fact.

After he was released, Daoud, a Sunni Muslim who worked as a hospital doctor under Saddam Hussein’s regime and then as a private pharmacist, claimed attempts had been made on his life.

Later when Daoud was made aware of the Americans’ “need” to speak to him, he and his wife fled.

On April 10, 2005 the couple applied for asylum at Paphos Gate. On May 30, 2007 their application was rejected because they were “not found to fulfil the requirements of Section 3 and 19 of the Refugee Law of 2000-2005”.

In other words they had not shown a “well founded fear of persecution for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion”. They have also been denied subsidiary protection after failing to show a “well-founded fear of serious and unjustified harm for reasons other than the aforementioned”.

According to the reasoning of the decision their story was also said to lack credibility.
KISA’s Polycarpou said this was a frequent excuse used by the asylum service when it had no other argument to put forward.

Because of this, however, the couple will have no access to work or welfare benefits, the latter of which they have not received since March.

They had received some food from the Red Cross but the charity told them it was no longer able to help them, Daoud said.

“Now we are without nationality,” he said.

The couple said they had 20 days to appeal the asylum service’s decision but that they had no money to pay for a lawyer.

“This is why we came to KISA and they said they would appeal for us,” Daoud said.
According to KISA one of the NGO’s Iraqi contacts had confirmed the couple were genuine Iraqis.

Palestinian KISA volunteer Belal Doufesh said the asylum service had a serious problem when dealing with Iraqi and Palestinians. He said the service seemed to discriminate against the two groups from the get go and did it’s best not to grant asylum, delaying application reviews for years.

“Until the case is examined they don’t have the right to work and they have to fight for welfare. They have no future and live in insecurity,” he said.

He questioned why hardly any Palestinians or Iraqis were granted asylum and said that they tended to get subsidiary protection due to the political situation in their home countries.

“But this prevents them from working for at least a year,” he said. It also meant they could not travel which essentially meant they were “living without a future in a prison”.

“I don’t know what kind of protection they call this,” he added.

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