Destitute Iranian dies after suicide protest at refugee charity
September 4, 2003
Written by Arun Kundnani
Yet another asylum seeker has taken his own life after suffering misery at the hands of the British asylum system. Israfil Shiri had been thrown out of his Salford council flat and been denied benefits, under the government’s tough new rules. He set himself alight last week in the offices of Refugee Action in Manchester and died later in hospital.
Israfil, 30, had told friends that he would do something to prove that ‘this government cares more about animals than people fleeing torture and persecution’. Last week he went to the offices of Refugee Action in Manchester, went into a toilet to douse himself in petrol and then returned to the front desk and set himself alight with a lighter. Suffering from 80 per cent burns, he was rushed to hospital but died, five days later, in the Burns Unit at Wythenshawe Hospital.
In Iran, Israfil had worked in a section of the military but had became a victim of political persecution after refusing to follow orders that would have caused harm to innocent people. His claim for asylum in Britain was rejected last year.
Israfil also suffered from a complicated medical condition and had been denied medical treatment after the refusal of his asylum claim. Prior to his suicide, he was in great pain due to his illness and was fearful of being deported to Iran.
Reza Moradi, of the International Federation of Iranian Refugees, said: ‘Once you see you are facing deportation to jailers of the Islamic regime [of Iran] – you can’t have a solicitor, you have no house to live in, you can’t work, that is enough for people to commit suicide, or do something like this.’
An open letter has been launched by the Manchester Committee to Defend Asylum Seekers, calling for urgent action to support Iranian asylum seekers in Greater Manchester.
How many more?
IRR has recorded 14 suicides by victims of the asylum system in the last five years:
- Mehretab Kidane, a 28-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker, was so afraid of losing his asylum appeal that he committed suicide in 1998 on the day of his final appeal hearing. His body was found at his south London flat, hanging from a makeshift noose.
- Sofonias Alemseged, a 22-year-old asylum seeker from Eritrea, hanged himself with a shoelace in Brixton prison in July 1998, a few weeks before an appeal on his asylum claim was due to be held.
- Lin Yan-Guang, a Chinese asylum seeker, committed suicide in Warley hospital, Essex, in December 1998.
- Glynnis Cowley, a South African mother of three, committed suicide in Liverpool in 2000, after her asylum claim was rejected.
- Robertas Grabys, a 49-year-old Lithuanian asylum-seeker, hanged himself at Harmondsworth Detention Centre in 2000.
- On 21 December 2000, Saeed Alaei, a 26-year-old Iranian, living in Nelson, Lancashire, was found hanged after the rejection of his asylum claim.
- On 18 January 2001, the body of Shokrolah ‘Ramin’ Khaleghi, a 26-year-old Iranian who had been a political prisoner in Iran, was discovered in the International Hotel, a hostel for asylum seekers in Leicester. He had committed suicide a week after the rejection of his asylum claim.
- On 20 January 2001, an unnamed Kosovan was discovered on a ferry travelling from Ostend to Dover. At Dover he was put back on a ferry to deport him to Calais. But he jumped from the ship to his death.
- Nasser Ahmed, a 36-year-old Eritrean asylum seeker who had settled in Nelson, Lancashire, was found hanged in August 2001, shortly after being refused permission to stay in the UK.
- On 1 January 2002, 28-year-old Souleyman Diallo jumped 100 feet to his death from Redheugh Bridge, Tyneside, because he was to be deported back to Guinea.
- On 12 March 2002, Mohsen Amri, a 27-year-old Iranian, took his own life at his home in Handsworth, Birmingham. His asylum application had been refused on a technicality.
- On 7 May 2002, Shiraz Pir, a 25-year-old Afghani living in a Bristol hostel, was found hanged, but still alive. He died five days later in Bristol Royal infirmary. His application for refugee status had been refused.
- 42-year-old Ukrainian asylum seeker, Mikhail Bognarchuk, was found hanged by his shoelaces in a toilet at Haslar Removal Centre on 31 January 2003. He was due to be deported that day to Ukraine.
The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.