Letter from the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning, Fiona Hyslop, in response to a letter asking for her support for Ibrahim Mutahar Alkhader and his family
11 September 2008
Thank you for your e-mail of 8 September, raising concerns about the detention of Ibrahim Mutahar Alkhader and 4 of his children.
I fully understand and share your concerns about the family's detention. It has clearly been a difficult and uncertain time for the family. I understand that the family have not left the UK and that they will be returning to Scotland shortly.
The Scottish Government is fundamentally opposed to early morning removals, to the forcible removal of children and to the detention of children at Dungavel or elsewhere. All asylum seekers must be treated fairly and humanely at all times - thewelfare and rights of asylum seeking children are Ministers' paramount concerns.
Immigration and asylum are reserved matters at present and it is the UK Government that determines asylum policy and operates the asylum system. Decisions as to whether individuals and families are granted asylum in the UK are a matter for Home Office Ministers and UK Border Agency (UKBA) officials. We have however had regular contact with Home Office Ministers and made clear our concerns about the asylum system.
We have made clear to UKBA that when families are refused leave to remain, all steps should be taken to encourage them to leave the UK of their own volition. To help with this, officials have been working with UKBA, Glasgow City Council, the Scottish Refugee Council and others to develop an "alternative to detention" pilot for Scotland - to ensure that all families have accurate information about the voluntary return packages available to them and to help reduce the need for forced removalsand the detention of families.
I share the concerns you raise, not just about the treatment of this family but about the operation of the UK immigration and asylum system in Scotland and the treatment of asylum seekers in general. We have established a useful dialogue withHome Office Ministers on asylum and I will continue to pursue these issues with them.
Fiona Hyslop (Cabinet Secretary for Education and Lifelong Learning)
Fiona Hyslop's unequivocal rejection of dawn raids and the detention of children is very welcome. But we are very concerned over the pilot "alternative to detention" scheme. We fear that it will be just another means of putting pressure on vulnerable people denied asylum by an legal process outrageously weighted against them. The alternative to detention is freedom. A cheap flight to danger is no alternative at all
About Ibrahim Mutahar Alkhader
Information provided by the Unity Centre, Glasgow
Ibrahim came to the UK to work as a high ranking Yemeni diplomat in the Yemeni Embassy in London. He worked there for four years from 2001 until 2005.
In 2005 he discovered he’d been monitored by the Yemeni secret service for two years for making allegedly "derogatory" comments about the Yemeni president during a party at the Embassy.
He was interrogated by the Yemeni ambassador with two secret service men in the Embassy. They made it clear that he would be prosecuted for speaking out against the president of Yemen and could be executed. He was then suspended from work in the embassy.
In October 2006 he was eventually sacked from his job and he stayed in London trying to get his situation sorted out but while he was doing this Ibrahim continued to receive threats.
As the level of threats increased Ibrahim claimed asylum in December 2007 with his wife, Hind Ahmed Alkboos and their six children: Mohammed (m) age 13, Sarah (f) age 10, Youness (m) age 9, Hajar (f) age 6, Khadeja (f) age 3, and Ahmed (m) age 2.
All now call Glasgow home having been moved here under in 2008 the NASS dispersal scheme.
On Thursday 4th September, last week, Ibrahim and four of his six children were detained when going to report at the Home Office in Glasgow. His wife, Hind and two of the children, Youness and Ahmed, however were not with him and therefore not detained.
Ibrahim and the four children with were scheduled to be forcibly removed to the Yemen on Wednesday 10th September
The human rights situation in Yemen is very poor. The government and its security forces, often considered to suffer from rampant corruption, have been responsible for torture, inhumane treatment and even extrajudicial executions. Censorship is actively practiced and the security forces often monitor telephone, postal, and Internet communications.
Amnesty International reported that in Yemen in 2007: "Dozens of people arrested in previous years in the context of the "war on terror" remained in indefinite detention without trial. Two escaped prisoners were killed by the security forces in circumstances that suggested they may have been extrajudicially executed. Political prisoners were tried in special courts whose proceedings fell far short of international standards. Dozens of detainees were released in Sa'da Province, but hundreds were believed to be still detained at the end of the year. Death sentences continued to be imposed and at least 30 people were reported to have been executed...[People detained] were denied access to lawyers and had no recourse to the courts to challenge the legality of their detention.
Ibrahim's lawyer, Nicola Loughran at Livingstone Brown, managed to lodge an application for a Judicial review' late on 9 September at the High Court in Edinburgh. 'First Orders' stopping Ibrahim's removal flight were granted at the High Court on the morning of 10 September. Ibrahim with his four children are back into Glasgow, re-united with his wife and his two other children.