Wednesday, September 06, 2006

32 Iraqis are booted out of Britain

David Wooding:

LABOUR finally got tough on asylum cheats yesterday as 32 Iraqis were booted out.

They were herded on to a military jet and flown back to their own country.

But the Government operation was marred by horror as 15 harmed themselves in a desperate bid to stay.

One man slit his throat and another needed stitches in a wrist wound. One claimed to have taken an overdose, but none was taken to hospital.

The Home Office refused to comment on the self-harming but a witness told of “carnage with blood on the walls”.

The mass boot-out represented a radical shift from earlier softly-softly tactics that have infuriated taxpayers.

Official figures show there are up to 570,000 illegal immigrants in the UK. The real figure is likely to be higher.

Before now, Iraqis have avoided deportation by saying their country is a war zone.

But an Immigration Service source said last night: “This is our way of saying that won’t wash any more.”

The operation began at 5am as 64 officials swooped on detention centres at Colnbrook, near Slough, Berks, and Harmondsworth, West London.

The 32 were told to collect their belongings and frog-marched to buses. Some tried self-harm and six launched late legal challenges.

One man succeeded in his appeal, and he was returned to his detention centre. But his place on the flight was taken by one on a “stand-by” list. Three coaches then took the failed asylum seekers — mostly young men — to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire, where they were placed on board an RAF Hercules C-17.

At 2.32pm, the transporter plane took off for Iraq. There the asylum cheats were greeted by their families and interim government officials.

The guards who escorted them were expected back at Brize Norton at 2am today. It was the biggest swoop since Home Secretary John Reid vowed to get tough on illegal immigrants.

He hopes it will send out a message that Iraqis will be treated like any others.

A spokesman for Mr Reid said: “Everybody found not to be in need of international protection should be expected to leave the UK. Voluntary returns are preferable. But if people don’t leave of their own accord, we shall enforce their return.” Mr Reid ordered the removals last week after telling judges the action must be delayed no further.

It was the first time a warplane has been used to deport illegal immigrants, but could be the first of many.

In November, an attempt was made to deport 70 Iraqi Kurds. But just 20 ended up going because of legal bids.

Home Office makes sure asylum flight to Iraq is full

Reid warns judges not to block Iraqis' deportation

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