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Asylum - Fear of Persecution

Every so often, we see a case which really turns on the full 'I can't believe it' mode. One such was reported on June 29 1999 in the Times, under the name Demirkaya v Secretary of State for the Home Department. The case is instructive because it gives the lie to much government propaganda playing on the evils of 'bogus' asylum seekers.

The facts underlying the case appear unchallenged. The applicant was a Kurd, born in Turkey. He became involved in peaceful activities, challenging the Turkish government's treatment of the Kurds. He joined the PKK.

In 1975, and 1976, he was repeatedly arrested and beaten by the Turkish authorities. The beatings on these, and later, occasions included the recognised torture known as 'falaka', the beating of the soles of the feet. The wrongful arrests, beatings and torture continued in different forms over several years.

The torture left him scarred, and at times included acts which clearly put his life at risk (pushing him out of a third story window). None of these arrests led to a charge, let alone to a conviction. This continued until he went into hiding, made his escape from Turkey, and came to Britain.

Strangely, perhaps, what upsets me is not the way Turkey, and the Turkish Police beat him, which sadly perhaps, goes without saying, but the way our own legal system treated him.

Our own immigration officers came to the utterly unbelievable and appalling conclusion that, in the light of the above, he had no real justified fear of persecution. If he returned to Turkey, he might be wrongfully arrested and beaten up a bit, but, almost, 'what the heck'. They even considered that he might be 'insulted' a bit by the police at the airport.

If anything shows what must be deliberate and wanton dishonesty on the part of our immigration service, and the Home Office who administer this process, then this case is it. How could anyone honestly come to such a conclusion? I bow my head in shame that we employ people in a system, which can produce such breathtaking arrogance.

That was not the end. No doubt surprised at the decision of the Immigration officers, he appealed to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal, and probably expected reasonable justice there. Sadly, no. The IAT rejected his claim, feeling, it seems that the same police officers who had previously threatened his life, and shown every determination to carry out those threats, could be relied upon to limit themselves to a little roughing up.

Mercifully for our collective conscience, Mr Demirkaya again had faith in our law, and took his case to the Court of Appeal. There he succeeded. The case is worth reading to hear the sharp intake of breath which the judges, particularly LJ Stuart-Smith, let slip. It is one of those cases where the sheer controlled politeness of the judgment about the IAT says all that need be said.

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Copyright and Database Rights: David Swarbrick 2012
18 October 2013 http://www.swarb.co.uk/lawb/immFearPers.shtml 150 18 October 2013