Majid Ali, a Pakistani student in Scotland seeking asylum, was deported from the United Kingdom on the night of 9 June on a chartered plane. Following his deportation, activists and politicians are seeking assurances of his safety from the UK government. They have been unable to get in touch with him since Tuesday.
Majid's campaigners believe the UK government has sent Majid “to his death” and called for a reformation of the asylum system. Majid's application for asylum was rejected multiple times since 2010. The UK Home Office, in charge of reviewing asylum cases, has declined to comment on Majid's case.
Majid sought asylum
Member of Parliament (MP) Chris Stephens, who tabled a motion on Majid's behalf in the UK parliament, has warned the deported student could face death upon his return because of his family’s political activism in Pakistan's troubled southwestern province Balochistan.
Corresponding with Global Voices over email, he said, “There is no evidence that Majid was either a criminal or involved in activity that was a threat to the UK. I consider the current treatment of those seeking political asylum to be barbaric.”
On Twitter, campaigners tried to raise awareness of Majid's case by tweeting #DontDeportMajid.
NCAFC, a coalition of students and workers dedicated to fighting fees, cuts and privatisation in education, tweeted in support of Majid:
Majid's family were killed in Pakistan for political activity. The Home Office have just sentenced him to the same fate. #DontDeportMajid
— Against Fees & Cuts (@NCAFC_UK) June 9, 2015
— Megan Dunn (@megandunn116) June 9, 2015
Majid at risk
Members of Ali's family are reported to have been a part of the pro-independence Baloch Republican Party, which was banned by the Pakistani government in 2012. According to human rights groups, pro-independence activists in Balochistan are being targeted by the Pakistani state. Some have accused the government of being behind thousands of forced disappearances in Balochistan, including Majid’s brother, who went missing in 2010. Campaigners say the Pakistani state was behind Majid's brother's abduction and the killing of his father and uncle.
UK's tough asylum rules
These instances, in which asylum seekers’ lives are disregarded, don’t seem to be isolated ones. Five years ago the Institute for Race Relations found that between 1996-2000, the UK’s asylum and immigration policies led to the deaths 77 asylum seekers and migrants. Over one-third of these people are thought to have killed themselves because their asylum applications were rejected, showing the desperation of their situation. This is all the result of an uncaring asylum system, where people seeking refuge are nothing more than numbers on a page that must be erased from the UK at all costs.
Campaign to stop his deportation
Before he was deported, dozens of students with the National Union of Students (NUS) Scotland protested in Edinburgh and London, holding signs that said “Don't Deport Majid”. This video is from a demonstration in Edinburgh:
When contacted through Facebook, Sanjay Lago, the student president of City of Glasgow College, where Majid was taking classes before he was deported, told Global Voices:
Majid was a great and bubbly student who was always very friendly and spoke to people. He was supportive also to his classmates also. I was really overwhelmed by the support from my friends and family and colleagues at NUS and also MPs, most notably Chris Stephens and Gary Spedding. To have a demo in Edinburgh and London organised in 5 days was incredible and made a mark.
I was really disheartened by the news of his deportation and still puzzled on the decision as to what the reasons were? And it is more upsetting for me as his student president to learn no one has heard from him since Tuesday before he was deported, neither me his friend or his lecturer. I know his safety is a priority and the MPs are looking into what can be done there.
On Tuesday morning, I received correspondence from the home office rejecting my request for an urgent review [of Majid's case]. I then raised the issue in the chamber at 12 noon asking the Home Secretary to make a statement, and sought a meeting with the immigration minister thereafter. These requests were ignored.
Demands to ensure Majid's safety
Gary Paterson, the vice president (communities) of NUS Scotland, told Global Voices when contacted through Facebook:
We were absolutely encouraged by the massive public response to this and we can’t thank enough the Members of Parliament who in large numbers challenged the decision that was made largely in the shadows with no statement or response to our concerns, no opportunity for review, and a deportation carried out on a charted non-commercial flight from London.
The fight goes on, and we'll be working to ensure that this never happens again, there absolutely must be a review into these decisions, and we need to keep an eye on Majid to ensure awareness of his story and his ongoing safety.
When asked about Majid Ali’s case, a spokeswoman with the Scottish government explained to Global Voices via email:
We expect the Home Secretary to ensure that all claims for asylum are thoroughly assessed, and that people are only returned to their countries of origin if their safety can be assured.
The spokeswomen mentioned Member of Scottish Parliament Humza Yousaf, who is of Pakistani origin and represents Glasgow, when asked if any of the 10 UK MPs of Pakistani origin were taking up Majid's case:
“[He] has written to the Home Secretary to seek urgent clarification on Mr Ali’s situation and assurances about his safety, following his removal from the UK.