Iranian refugees acquitted of smuggling criticizes British asylum policy | Court News
London, United Kingdom- When the British authorities showed Fouad Kakaei a picture of him driving an inflatable boat across the English Channel from France, he smiled.
“This is ridiculous,” he said, referring to the moment of questioning in Port Dover in late December 2019.I have told them that I am a driver, and I said that from the beginning. “
In an interview with Al Jazeera near the temporary hotel in north London, he added: “Except for two photos of me driving the boat, they did not bring any evidence, and they said that I have two SIM cards. This is to prove that I am The smuggler’s evidence.”
But when the 31-year-old Kakaei was accused of assisting other asylum seekers entering the country illegally, the laughter soon stopped.
In January 2021, he was sentenced to 26 months imprisonment, including his own illegal entry crime, but he has been remanded in jail for nearly a year.
As COVID-19 began to spread around the world, his imprisonment began.
“After the lockdown, it became a prison in a prison. I stayed in the cell for 23.5 hours a day. There was nothing to do. We watched the news about the coronavirus all day, and I began to wonder if I could see the outside again. world.”
After a successful appeal last month and unanimously acquitted in the retrial, Kakaei will finally appear in court in May 2021.
“There is no choice but to leave”
The Kakaei case occurred when the British Conservative government began a comprehensive reform of the “broken” asylum system, which planned to deny asylum to people who entered the country through “illegal channels.”
The UN Refugee Agency warned that these measures “will undermine the 1951 Convention and the international protection system, not only in the UK, but globally.”
As an engineering student from western Iran, Kakai is a persecuted minority, which prompted him to abruptly flee the country in 2015.
“I am facing execution. There is no way but to leave.”
Kakaei initially settled in Denmark, but a few years later, his asylum application was unsuccessful, and the authorities only gave him a few days to leave the country.
Denmark has been condemned by human rights organizations for its “zero asylum seekers” policy, which resulted in the cancellation of the residence permits of Syrian refugees and the parliament voted to send asylum seekers to an external processing site in Africa.
The Danish branch caused an emotional loss.
“I felt completely hopeless and gave up my life,” Kakaei admitted. “The only reason I didn’t do stupid things was for my family.”
After hearing anecdotes about other Iranians who were rejected by Denmark successfully applying for asylum in the UK, Kakai went to France to find a secret route across the English Channel, the busiest shipping route in the world.
Although Kakaei’s trial judge admitted that he “has good reason to be afraid of being persecuted,” he ruled that the passengers on his ship entered without a document, so Kakaei driving the ship-basically holding the rudder-is also a crime .
Kakaei’s legal team successfully retorted that the intention of the crew on the ship was to be rescued and taken to the UK for asylum.
The Court of Appeal held that the judge “deprived the appellant of a viable defense”, which explains why Kakaei initially pleaded guilty to all charges.
Kakaei’s lawyer, Anurin Brewer of the Red Lion Chamber of Commerce, told Al Jazeera that the crime of assisting “illegal immigration” is usually used to imprison criminals who transport people to the country for profit.
“The irony and profound injustice of these cases is that the laws made to protect people like Mr. Kakaei have been used to prosecute him. When the criminal justice system is used as a political tool, this is very disturbing. of.”
In March 2020, an independent report found that the team of the Ministry of Interior, the government department responsible for immigration affairs, that specializes in immigration-related criminal investigations stated that “small boat investigations are difficult because there are no organized criminal group members on board” because “ Most organized crime activities take place in France.”
A judge who presided over a similar case at the Canterbury Criminal Court in October 2020 found that the immigrant at the helm of a small boat “is not part of a trafficking ring in any practical sense…he is one of the trafficked persons.”
Despite this, the government continues to prosecute pilots seeking asylum. A spokesperson for the Ministry of the Interior told Al Jazeera that since the beginning of 2020, 65 small boat-related lawsuits have been prosecuted and sentenced to more than 53 years in prison.
But recently, citing prominent issues in the Kakaei case, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) sensationally announced that they will drop the charges against 12 immigrants who were prosecuted for driving a small boat across the strait.
A spokesperson told Al Jazeera that these cases “no longer meet our legal standards for prosecution.”
Brewer and other lawyers are now developing guidelines for the legal team to use in future cases and review previous convictions for appeals.
“A person was held in prison for 17 months and was innocent: this was a misjudgment,” he told Al Jazeera.
Ellie Campo, the head of public law at the Bar Association, told Al Jazeera that the government’s use of smuggling laws is problematic.
“It can’t distinguish between those who are real asylum seekers, and therefore victims, and those who are responsible for the crime.”
Cumbo said that the broader goal of the proposal—to invalidate asylum applications by irregular arrivals—is unlikely to comply with international law.
“The Refugee Convention clearly recognizes that there is no illegal route to the UK. The point is that people fleeing persecution may have to travel irregularly.”
At the same time, Kakaei still has to spend several months waiting for his pending asylum application to be resolved.
Despite this treatment, he believes that given the fact that most people are left behind, the government’s strategy is unlikely to achieve the purpose of deterrence.
“They will still come. As long as people are ready to spend years in jail just to get out of trouble, someone will always be ready to take them to England.”