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Somali Bajunis Asylum Seekers Protest UK Deportations To Tanzania & Kenya
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Somali Bajunis Asylum Seekers Protest UK Deportations To Tanzania & Kenya

A campaign has been launched in the UK to stop the deportation of an ethnic Bajuni man Ali Rashid Nur to Tanzania. Nur is a Somali national from the ethnic minority Swahili-speaking Bajun tribe who lived in the UK since 1998 after he fled Somalia in 1996 when his family members were killed and his home village burnt. The UK Home Office had booked Nur to a Dar es Salaam bound Kenya Airways flight on Friday at 18:25 Nur had lived in the UK in poverty and terrible conditions ever since his asylum application nearly 20 years ago, which never was properly addressed by The Home Office and still remains unresolved in legal limbo. "Ali is due to speak at our first Goldsmith's Student Society meeting on 28 November in New Cross, London, about the Home Office and the ‘Hostile Environment’ for migrants. Now, using incorrect information and racial profiling the Home Office is trying to deport Ali to a country - Tanzania - he has no connection with" A statement by GoldSmith Anti Imperialist Society said. "Ali, who also has 3 children he is struggling to support, is calling on people to help stop this huge injustice. Recently, The Home Office forced Ali to have an ‘interview’ at the Tanzanian embassy to try to prove for their deportation purposes he is from there, but instead, the Tanzanian embassy staff was outraged that the Home Office bought Ali to them, who speaks Kibajuni (language of the Bajuni Somalis and a Swahili dialect) not Tanzanian Swahili"  the statement farther said. The UK Home Office has been accused of "racially profiling" Ali "Through trawling his Facebook account, they said because he ‘looks Tanzanian’, is online ‘friends’ with a few Tanzanians, they concluded this is his country of origin" The Home Office has issued Ali with 9 more days to ‘prove’ he is not from Tanzania. "The fact is, they can’t even prove it themselves. Ali has not been allowed to see a copy of any letter from the Tanzanian Embassy agreeing he is a citizen of that country. In reality, this is a Home Office intimidation tactic and the threat of removal" Goldsmith Anti Imperialist Society stated. The ethnic minorities Bajuni and Barawa of the southern coast of Somalia are linguistically distinct from the rest of the Somalis since they speak Swahili dialects.   This miserable chain of events is what's happening to the hundred or so Bajunis currently seeking asylum in the UK. Hailing from islands off the coast of southern Somalia, they spent the majority of their time in their home country fishing, and the rest of it being the victims of tribal persecution and threats from the militant Islamist group Al-Shabaab. Having sought asylum in the UK, the Bajunis are facing possible deportation to Kenya and Tanzania – countries where they have no heritage or current familial links. This is because the Home Office is refusing to acknowledge the Bajunis' Somali identity, thanks to the results of Language Testing for the Determination of Origin (LADO) tests – a type of "forensic linguistics" designed to assess the validity of nationality claims. The Bajunis I spoke to told me that these decisions were made on the basis of their interviews with language analysts, and claimed that they had to speak mainland Swahili, rather than their mother tongue of Kibajuni. The Unity Centre in Glasgow, a charity that has assisted the Bajunis with their asylum claims, alleges that the Home Office's LADO reports have dismissed official academic guidelines and independent expert findings. They argue that political decisions are being made through the use of evidence from Sprakab, the Swedish company that conducts the reports. The center believes that this is far from a bureaucratic mistake, and instead of a way of getting around the legal barriers – under EU human rights law – involved in sending people back to war-torn Somalia. Essentially, it would seem that the Home Office wants to be rid of the Bajuni refugees, and – unable to deport them back to their home country – is making selective use of Sprakab analysis in order to send them elsewhere. According to Jasmin Sallis, one of the center's organizers, "It is a deliberate tactic. It is no coincidence that the Home Office insists these Somali Bajunis are from countries with no barriers to deportation. Lack of objective knowledge of the Bajuni Islands and differences between individuals from the mainland is a key reason the Home Office's tactics work so well towards this minority group." When I chased up the Home Office to ask about Sprakab and its reports, it refused to comment on individual cases but did confirm that the company has worked for them since 2000. Spark also failed to comment on the questions I asked them. "It's a huge waste of taxpayer money and resources," said Brian Allen, who is an expert witness in the tribunal courts for Bajuni language testing. Having seen over 400 Sprakab reports, he criticized their methods, saying that obscure and misleading questions are often asked in Kenyan Swahili, rather than Kibajuni. "You have to bear in mind that the Bajuni are a remote people, and not formally educated," he told me. "They aren't going to answer questions [about] the names of parliamentarians or the names of mainland landmarks." Referring to Sprakab's testing methods, Brian said, "It's unprofessional and intimidatory. Not only do the interviews not speak to the Bajunis in their native tongue, but a lot of the interviews were quite aggressive. "There's a huge lack of transparency, and complete anonymity for Sprakab analysts, whom the Home Office are keen on supporting," Allen added. "It makes it very difficult to understand how testers come to their conclusions or the qualifications they have in the first place." Surprisingly, Allen says that, in a rare conversation with one of the company's managers, they told him that their reports shouldn't be used as an authority to make asylum decisions. And it's not just Allen who has questioned Sprakab's practices; Alison Harvey, the legal director of the Immigration Law Practitioner’s Association, said, "Language analysis cannot tell you a person’s nationality. It is relied upon by those who prefer the comforting certainties of pseudo-science to the responsibility of exercising judgment and weighing the evidence in a particular case." Regardless of this expert criticism, language analysis remains a vital device in deciding the future of the Bajunis, most of whom are currently on limited support on the condition that they are making preparations to deport themselves. Nineteen-year-old Abdul Rahman, who left the islands after losing his uncle, told me that, despite attempts to prove his Somali origin, the Home Office still expects him to go to Kenya. When I asked about the testing, he told me the Sprakab analyst didn't speak Kibajuni to him, but the Kenyan dialect Swahili, while the questions asked were so vague that it proved "[the analyst] knew nothing about Somalia". He added, "They try to trick you into telling them the answers they want to hear." Like a number of other Bajunis, Abdul receives a very small allowance each week to spend on necessities, putting him in a better situation than the few who refused to accept voluntary deportation and have been left to rely on the help of charities and refugee organizations. Difficult as life in the UK is for the Bajunis, accepting deportation isn't really an option, considering – as I was told – they are regularly subjected to beatings and looting by gangs and in some cases even rapes and murders. Mohammed (a pseudonym), one of the Bajunis I interviewed, left the islands in 2006 after his family "couldn't take it anymore", first seeking refuge in Kenya, before eventually coming to the UK. "They killed most of my family while they slept, and we used to hear rumors that they terrorized other island communities, too," he said. "I wanted to stay in my home for as long as possible, but we didn't have any guns or real weapons. I had no other choice but to leave." He said of his time in Kenya, "Those who went to Kenyan refugee camps were ignored most of the time – given little food and water, too. They didn't like us at all, and would only give orders in Swahili – a language that the refugees had no knowledge of. They had to learn it to survive." Unfortunately for the Bajunis who made it here, the UK has only been a little more hospitable. But in spite of all the difficulties, The Unity Centre's Bajuni Campaign remains optimistic. According to Jasmin, "As the campaign has gained an online presence, contact by other Bajunis also facing disputed nationalities in Germany, The Netherlands and the Republic of Ireland has been made. The desirable outcomes are very basic: the right to work, and the right to be recognized as Somalian." Additional Report by Vice Ali Nur Petition