11:45, September 14 43 0 theguardian.com

2017-09-14 11:45:04
Home secretary ignores court order and sends asylum seeker to Kabul

An asylum seeker is holed up in a hotel room in Kabul in fear for his life after the home secretary breached a high court order not to remove him from the UK and instead put him on a plane back to Afghanistan.

Samim Bigzad, 23, says he is a prime target for the Taliban because he worked in construction for the Afghan government and American companies before he sought sanctuary in the UK.

Now he is back in Kabul he is even more fearful after a group of armed, plain clothed men arrived at the hotel on Wednesday and demanded to know his whereabouts.

Two high court judges have made separate orders calling for Bigzad to be brought back to the UK as a matter of urgency. The second states that the home secretary, Amber Rudd, is in contempt of court for breaching the first order not to remove Bigzad.

“I am very scared,” Bigzad said in a call from his hotel room in Kabul. “The people who work at the hotel are bringing food to me and have told me I must not leave this room at all. I think the hotel staff have a gun for protection if the men come back and try to force their way in.”

The first high court order preventing the asylum seeker’s removal was issued on Tuesday evening by Mr Justice Morris. By that time Bigzad had already been removed from the UK by the Home Office and had been put on to a Turkish Airlines flight to Istanbul. From there he was due to board a connecting flight to Kabul.

The aim of the high court order was to prevent him from being put on the second flight. However, the Home Office decided not to abide by the order and put him on the plane to Kabul where he arrived on Wednesday morning.

His lawyers then obtained a second, strongly worded high court order from Mr Justice Jay which describes the home secretary’s breach of the first court order as “prima facie contempt of court”.

Bigzad had been living in Ramsgate, Kent, after entering the UK two years ago in order to join his father who had been granted asylum. His father, for whom he has been the main carer, has lived in Margate for 10 years, and suffers from post-traumatic stress disorder.

Bigzad was previously subjected to a removal attempt which was suspended after the pilot refused to fly him because of concerns about his safety.

Although there are several flights a day from Kabul to European destinations, there is a further problem about returning Bigzad to the UK because the emergency travel document he was issued with – an EU letter – cannot be used to return him to the UK. Negotiations are ongoing with the Afghan foreign ministry and the British embassy about the issuing of a new travel document but to date no document has been issued to him.

Bigzad’s solicitor, Jamie Bell of Duncan Lewis solicitors, said: “We were deeply shocked that the Home Office had manifestly breached the first order and requested immediate confirmation that they would be returning him back.

“We pursued the Home Office [literally] all night but we have had no confirmation that the Home Office is going to comply with it and given its strong nature, we believe they are now in breach of the order once more.

“In the meantime, Samim remains in a hotel room in Kabul with limited to no protection in increasing danger due to his high profile and caught in an administrative nightmare where the Home Office, having unlawfully returned him to Kabul, appear to be having severe difficulties bringing him back.

“My concern is that the Taliban explicitly target those deemed to be high profile and [who] have connections with the west. They also have a significant presence in Kabul, and can act with impunity and have effectively infiltrated the state apparatus. He therefore could be a sitting duck in Kabul the longer that he remains.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “We do not comment on ongoing legal matters.”