'It's so bad, like prison': Detained asylum seeker due to be sent to Rwanda speaks out

By John Mercury May 3, 2024

Every two weeks Iranian asylum seeker Ahmed has to report to a Home Office immigration enforcement centre in Loughborough.

According to friends, the 35-year-old did not expect his appointment on Wednesday to be any different to the many times he had been there before.

But when Ahmed – which is not his real name – failed to return home to Derby, one friend grew increasingly concerned.

Iman, who is also 35 and from Iran, drove to the Loughborough office and heard from protesters outside that Ahmed had been detained.

He filmed as his friend and a small group of other men were led out of the building in handcuffs, put inside a van and driven away.

By then, Ahmed’s phone was no longer ringing. When they next heard from him, he was in a detention centre.

Ahmed is only able to speak for a short time on each call before the phone cuts out.

He told Sky News he was being held at an immigration removal centre near Gatwick Airport.

With his friend translating, he said he was feeling “so bad… just feeling like [he’s] in prison, in jail”.

Read more:
Centres deserted as migrants ‘scared’
Failed asylum seeker sent to Rwanda

The friend of a man being deported to Rwanda speaks to Sky's Becky Johnson grab from Sky VT
Iman told Sky News he has cried over his friend’s situation

Ahmed’s phone has been taken away from him, according to his friends, and they’re struggling to keep in regular contact because the centre “just gives him a SIM card for a couple of minutes and then he needs to top up”.

Iman says witnessing his friend’s detention was “awful” and Ahmed is “so upset”.

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“I think nobody deserves that to happen,” he said, and added that Ahmed did not know he was at risk of being sent to Rwanda.

“He’s a nice guy, he doesn’t do any bad things actually. And when I saw him like that, I was so upset I started crying.”

The Home Office announced earlier this week that it had begun detaining people due to be sent to Rwanda.

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Taran Cheema, a trustee of asylum seeker charity Derbyshire Refugee Solidarity, said around 10 people she knew had been detained.

“My phone is ringing non-stop from people who are scared or who have now been detained,” she said. “They’ve just been told that they will be removed to Rwanda… [with] no timescale.”

Taran Cheema, a trustee of an asylum seeker support charity grab from Sky VT
Taran Cheema

Ms Cheema said all the charity workers she had spoken to had been “at the verge of tears for the last few weeks”.

“We don’t know how best to support people,” she added. “They are people who’ve done nothing wrong, they’ve committed no offences. They’ve been met with people banging down their doors, with detention.

“We are struggling to help people.”


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