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Afshin's story exposes 'inhumanity' of asylum system

PUBLISHED: 16:05 28 March 2008 | UPDATED: 14:54 07 September 2010

AN asylum seeker who came to West Hampstead from Iran has played a key part in damning the treatment of people seeking refuge in Britian for falling below the standards expected of a civilis

AN asylum seeker who came to West Hampstead from Iran has played a key part in damning the treatment of people seeking refuge in Britian for "falling below the standards expected of a civilised society".

A videoed testimony of Iranian Afshin Azizian describing how he came to the UK and was refused asylum was part of evidence published yesterday by the Independent Asylum Commission (IAC).

The IAC's interim report claims Britian's system for dealing with asylum seekers is still not fit for purpose and is "marred by inhumanity".

Mr Azizian arrived in Britain in 1995. He has converted to Christianity and is scared he will be killed for his beliefs if he returns to Iran.

His application for asylum and subsequent appeals were rejected he has been unable to work or claim benefits. In the video he said he has spent time living on the streets and unable to find food.

"We are not that poor in Iran, we are not here for your money," he said. "By natural resources, where I come from is one of the richest countries on the face of the earth. I could never believe I would be starving in England. If someone told an Iranian that in a western country they treated you like [this] they wouldn't believe you."

Mr Azizian said that his struggle had left him depressed and he had attempted suicide - only surviving one attempt as a result of the intervention of a Ham&High reporter.

The newspaper has supported his campaign to win asylum and Mr Azizian remains unbowed.

He said: "If justice exists in this country I will get it. If it doesn't we will campaign until we create [it]."

The IAC, which will publish its full findings in May, June and July, was started after then Home Secretary John Reid said the asylum system in the UK was "not fit for purpose" in 2006.

In the interim report the IAC said: "The UK asylum system is improved and improving, but is not yet fit for purpose. The system still denies sanctuary to some who genuinely need it and ought to be entitled to it; is not firm enough in returning those whose claims are refused; and is marred by inhumanity in its treatment of the vulnerable."

The chief executive of the Border and Immigration Agency Lin Homer said the claims made in the interim report were not based on any thorough knowledge.

She said: "I totally refute any suggestion that we treat asylum applicants without care and compassion.

"We have a proud tradition in Britain of offering sanctuary to those who truly need our protection, and anyone seeking asylum can have their case reviewed by an independent judge. We operate a firm but humane system, supporting those who are vulnerable with accommodation and assistance.

"But we expect those that a court says have no genuine need for asylum to return home voluntarily, saving taxpayers the expense of enforcing their return. We will enforce the removal of those who refuse to comply, always ensuring first that it is safe to do so."

The 37-year-old Mr Azizian is currently launching a fresh appeal to remain in the UK, based on evidence of his activities here. His solicitor will be presenting a new file to the Home Office later this year. The information being handed in will include press coverage from the Ham&High as well as footage from Sky News.

See the video here

This video was provided by Human Rights TV, to see more visit www.humanrightstv.com

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