January 27, 2023

“I lost control of my body and my mind. I couldn’t get up. My hands were shaking. I was terrified,” recalled Iranian asylum seeker Nasar Abdollahi as he described being strapped to a plane seat and getting ready to go to Rwanda. leave. .

“They wanted to send us to Rwanda by force,” he says. “They tried, but in the end it didn’t work, thank God.”

It is now six months since lawyers succeeded in stopping the plane Nasar and three other asylum seekers were on from leaving at the very last minute, pushing the government’s controversial policies to court.

Nasar and his family spoke with us pending a decision – which is imminent – on whether the government’s plan is legal.

Nasar says, “I’m still afraid that someone will knock on my door and send me to the deportation center and then send me to Rwanda.”

Nasar says his concerns about travel to Rwanda are based on the African country’s “good relations” with Iran.

“If they send me to Rwanda, I wish I had stayed in Iran and they would have just killed me there,” he says.

Nasar’s sister Shan says she can’t imagine the “nightmare” they went through last time happening again.

“How can I not worry? The fear is still there,” she says.

The government believes that sending asylum seekers to Rwanda will have a deterrent effect on those considering crossing the Channel.

Naser came to the UK to be with his sister Shan
Image:
Naser came to the UK to be with his sister Shan

Nasar admits he wishes he hadn’t come to the UK because of what happened to him.

In May he crossed the Channel in a small boat. Nasar says he was politically active in Iran and had no choice but to flee – leaving behind his wife and child, hoping they could one day join him in the UK.

He used smugglers to get him through Turkey to Italy. From there he reached northern France.

Like many asylum seekers, the motivation for crossing the Channel was to reach family in the UK – in Nasar’s case, his sister Shan.

But once Nasar arrived in Dover, things didn’t go as he had hoped.

A few days after arriving, he says he received a letter stating that he was at risk of being sent to Rwanda.

It is believed that more than 100 asylum seekers have been given a letter of intent after the government announced it in April a new plan to send asylum seekers to Rwanda in order to process.

Successful applicants would remain there with no chance of being sent back to the UK.

More than 40,000 migrants have crossed the Channel this year – a huge increase from 2021 when it less than 29,000. being many accommodated in hotels while their claims are being processed.

A Boeing 767 aircraft at MoD Boscombe Down, near Salisbury, believed to be the aircraft that will take asylum seekers from the UK to Rwanda.  Photo date: Tuesday, June 14, 2022.
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A Boeing 767 would take migrants to Rwanda

In the end, Nasar says he was one of only four people who got the Home Office to get on a plane with the intention of flying them there.

Nasar describes how he physically lost control when being transported to the plane two months after arriving in the UK. The date was June 14.

He says, “We got really stressed about four hours before they boarded. Our lawyer said he couldn’t do more. I lost control of my body and my mind. I couldn’t get up. My hands were shaking. I was terrified. They had to hold my hand to get me into the car.”

Once on board, Nasar describes how he and the other asylum seekers were held in their seats.

“We had handcuffs on our arms and belts on our waists,” he says. “Our hands were tied and we couldn’t move because it was so tight. We could only use our mouths to breathe and speak,” he says.

“I felt a genuine shock. I couldn’t think straight. I was so, so sad and upset. But I never lost hope. I thought ‘no’, the British government wouldn’t do this. I couldn’t speak. My eyes were closed and tears were streaming down my cheeks, all I could do was cry.

“I felt like I was dying. I wanted to die. Every second my pain got worse. The fear was so bad, dying couldn’t be worse.”

But at the same time, an extraordinary legal battle was unfolding – which ended when Nasar’s sister Shan broke the news to her brother that the flight had been cut short.

A group of people, believed to be migrants, arrive in Dungeness, Kent, having been rescued in the Channel by the RNLI following a small boat incident.  Photo date: Thursday, September 22, 2022.
Image:
More than 40,000 migrants have crossed the Channel this year

Nasar’s lawyer had called Shan, but they had no way of reaching Nasar, who had his phone taken away and doesn’t speak English.

At around 10 p.m., Nasar was allowed to use someone else’s phone to make what he thought was a final call to his sister to say goodbye before takeoff.

Shan excitedly recalls the conversation. She says, “Nasar said ‘Hi Shan.’ I said, ‘Nasar I have good news – the flight has been cancelled.’ He said, “But we’re on the plane and the plane is about to take off.” I said, ‘Don’t worry, it’s cancelled’.”

Shan then describes how she could hear the joy on the plane when her brother broke the news to the others.

She said: “He (her brother) said, ‘Shan, can you listen to the voices. Everyone was crying. The people who were on the plane. Begging and crying. He said, ‘Can you listen – they’re all crying’.

“I said, ‘Don’t worry, you can tell them it’s cancelled.’ I yelled, ‘Don’t worry, cancel, cancel’ – I knew this word, cancel. They all stopped crying. Like hope came back to them.”

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Shan continues excitedly, “The emotion – oh God, it’s hard to express the emotion. It was the happiest time. You think something terrible happened, but at the end of it it was canceled and it didn’t happen. I was so happy I couldn’t believe it.”

Nasar’s lawyer, Qays Sediqi, told Sky News: “We hope no one is on a flight to Rwanda, but I can’t promise it will all depend on how the court will decide, but we will do everything we can to essentially show that the policy is illegal. We hope the courts will agree with us and eventually abolish the policy.”

A spokesman for the Home Office said: “Our pioneering partnership for migration and economic development will move to Rwanda those who come to the UK via dangerous, illegal and unnecessary routes.

“We anticipated legal challenges to this innovative scheme and remain committed to its success, so that we can break the business model of the evil smugglers and prevent people from risking their lives making dangerous journeys across the Channel.”

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