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URC minister’s campaign saves churchgoer from deportation

30 January 2020

Madhi at Winchmore Hill URC

Madhi at Winchmore Hill URC

THE minister of a United Reformed Church in Enfield, north London, has succeeded in her campaign to prevent the Government from deporting one of her churchgoers, Madhi, a gay man from Iran who was being detained at Colnbrook Detention Centre.

In 2016, Madhi (not his full name) fled Iran, where he had been detained and tortured. He was homeless and suffered abuse in Germany, before eventually arriving in the UK in February 2019. He moved from Liverpool to London after meeting Ian, who became his partner, and has attended Winchmore Hill URC for the past few months.

He was detained by Home Office officials for a second time, last week, and was booked on a flight back to Germany, which was due to leave on Monday morning. His booking was cancelled last Friday night, however, and he has since been released.

The minister, the Revd Melanie Smith, said on Monday: “Incredibly, he was released from the detention centre on Friday. We are not quite sure why, but realise that we now need to do a lot of work to sort out paperwork and applications to ensure that he can stay in the UK with his partner, Ian.

“We will need an injunction against further attempts to deport him, while his fresh claim is considered — so a long way to go yet.”

Explaining Madhi’s plight last week, she said: “On 20 January, nine Home Office officials broke their door down and took Madhi into detention for a second time. They did this last autumn, and put Madhi on a flight back to Germany, during which he tried to take his own life. His injuries were not treated, and therefore Germany did not accept him. They sent him back to the UK.”

Under the Dublin Agreement, EU member states have the right to transfer migrants to their first country of entry to the EU.

After learning that Madhi had been detained again, Ms Smith contacted the newly elected MP for Enfield North, Feryal Clark, and started a petition on change.org calling on the Home Secretary for his immediate release. More than 37,000 people have signed.

“We fear that his life is at risk if he is forcibly deported,” she writes. “Madhi is a vulnerable adult suffering PTSD and prone to self-harm following his experiences which led to his fleeing Iran. After mistreatment whilst in detention with G4S, he had a serious self-harm episode in custody. He is still at risk. That’s why we’re calling on the UK Home Office to release Madhi from detention immediately. . .

“It would be a massive loss to our community if he was forcibly deported. Madhi has been a consistent presence at our church, taking part in leading services and enjoying playing a full part in the life of our church community. This is one of the few places where Madhi feels safe.”

Madhi received a deportation date of 28 January, but it was cancelled after intervention from Ms Clark. Last Thursday, however, his lawyers were forced to withdraw their application for bail after learning that the Home Office had rebooked him on another flight on Monday.

Ms Smith explained: “Although victims of torture or people who suffer from mental ill-health should not be placed in detention, if you have a flight booked then the Home Office rules say that you can be detained.”

Ms Clark intervened again to remove Madhi from the flight list. A spokesperson for the Home Office said that it did not routinely comment on individual cases.

The petition website was updated over the weekend. It states: “After a very tense morning of no news, we heard that Madhi’s flight has been cancelled by the Home Office. We’re thrilled! This may be because of Feryal Clark MP’s questions, but we suspect that your wonderful efforts in contacting KLM may have caused them to ask questions of the Home Office, too.

“We will probably never know the truth, but please accept a huge thank you from Madhi and Ian and all of us who have be strengthened by your support and love.”

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