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A group of Goldsmiths students saved a Somali refugee from deportation

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A group of Goldsmiths University students successfully prevented the deportation of Ali Rashid Nur, a Somali refugee who had previously been involved with the Anti-Imperialist Society.

It was a 4-day-long campaign ending in a tense standoff with armed police at Heathrow Airport.

Ali was due to be deported on Kenya Airways flight KQ101 on May 4, at 6.25pm. A petition set up by the Goldsmiths Anti-Imperialist Society, which has gained over 3,300 signatures explains that Ali is a Somali Bajuni, a persecuted minority in Somalia.

The petition alleges that Ali, who arrived in the UK in 1996 and has 3 children in the UK, was racially profiled by the Home Office at an interview in November 2017 where they tried to prove he was from Tanzania. He was then allegedly given 9 days to prove he was not Tanzanian, which he could not do.

He was detained by the Home Office on April 24.

Vice reports that the Home Office has previously deported other Bajunis to Kenya or Tanzania on the basis of a "forensic linguistics" test which has been criticised by experts as "unprofessional," "pseudo-science", and merely a route for the Home Office to avoid sending Bajuni refugees to Somalia, which would be illegal due to the ongoing war.

Fiona S., one of the students behind the campaign, says that on May 1, they found out that Ali had been detained.

They immediately began organising with other Goldsmiths students and external organisations, including Anti-Tribalism (a Somali community organisation) and members of Momentum and the Labour Party.

The campaign triggered a flood of calls and emails to Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre as well as the Home Office and Kenya Airways.

At one point, the campaigners managed to contact a Kenya Airways pilot who they believed was flying the route and urged her not to transport Ali, but she was not in the country and did not know who was piloting the flight.

Despite the efforts of the campaigners, the Home Office initially refused to stop Ali's deportation.

On May 4, with just hours to go before Ali was deported, the campaigners led an emergency protest at Heathrow Airport's Terminal 4, holding placards and handing out leaflets to passers-by. 

As a result, Kenya Airways staff called armed police on them. According to Fiona, "the attendant’s response was: 'if you continue talking we will call the police immediately'... the police came, armed, and sort of stood around us/guarded us."

After a 3-hour standoff, Ali finally texted a campaigner at 7 pm to inform them that he had not been deported; this was confirmed shortly after.

According to Fiona, the Shadow Home Secretary's Office had become aware of the campaign and intervened in support of Ali, and the calls, emails and protest had also helped to stop the deportation.

Fiona's tweets indicate that a Colnbrook staff member said to another campaigner, "I can't do this anymore!", and Ali was reportedly told by a police officer that “If it hadn’t been for all your friends, you wouldn’t still be here. Next time we’ll take you quietly.”

Ali remains in Colnbrook pending judicial review of his detention, and the campaigners continue to work to apply for bail and provide evidence for his judicial review, but he had one final message for his supporters, sent via text: "Jst wanna thank u guys for da love and support u showed today only Allah can repay u lot 4 dat fanx a lot. Nuf luv."

Featured image from petition

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