Searching for Asylum
The Targeting and Criminalisation of Kurdish Asylum Seekers
(available from Peace in Kurdistan, 44 Ainger Road, London NW3
This excellent report by Desmond Fernandes argues that Kurdish asylum
seekers and refugee communities have been targeted and criminalised in
a number of ways by state and parapolitical agencies. It provides evidence
that across 'Fortress Europe' prison, immigration, security
and policing services adopt institutionally racist, brutal and unaccountable
policies and procedures.
Many asylum and refugee groups which have already fallen prey to an insidious
coalition of the tabloid press, political opportunism, far-right groups,
corrupt police and an unaccountable Security Service are now the subject
of the government's proposal that people are categorised as a "national
security risk and international terrorist" on the basis of the Home
Secretary's beliefs or suspicions. The criteria for which are not
given in the new legislation and the basis for the suspicions will be
secret. Anyone who appeals against the decision, will have their case
heard in a closed hearing, which may take place in their absence without
full disclosure of the evidence.
While Turkey, the UK and the US routinely bomb northern Iraq themselves,
the law is being perverted to give politicians the right to return asylum
seekers even although they will be killed. The authorities need no longer
look into reasons why people may be fleeing. Even being subjected to torture
now means nothing. Those likely to seek political asylum because of their
political affiliations will be considered 'terrorists'.
The Immigration Service guided by a succession of Home Secretaries (Baker,
Hurd, Howard...) have long been active in contravening its own rules,
ignoring the basic fact that "...asylum seekers ha(ve) a perfect
right under present law - i.e. under the 1951 Convention - to use
illegal means (such as false documents) to claim asylum."(p10)
Decisions are "simply political", concludes Fazil Kawani from
the Refugee Council, rather than being based upon clear humanitarian considerations
"Such a desire to deter and target 'key' national 'undesirable'
groups has led to a range of new, discriminatory 'measures'
being institutionalised against Kurdish - and other - asylum seekers.
At the beginning of May, 2001, for instance, Barbara Roche, the Home Office
Minister, brazenly announced that immigration officers were now being
openly permitted to officially discriminate against eight nationalities,
one of which was Kurdish." (p11)
Jack Straw is now imposing a policy that institutionally targets and swiftly
deports 'Turkish' Kurdish (as with other) asylum seekers fleeing
from military conscription in their 'home' countries:
"In Turkey, one must remember, several Kurds have been forced to
flee rather than be jailed/tortured for conscientiously objecting, or
forced to join an army that has been involved in the genocidal destruction
of over 3,000 Kurdish villages in the south-east, the deaths of thousands
and the forcible displacement of over three million Kurds since the early
1990's alone...government policy is now set to possibly target and
deport/criminalise up to 6,000 'bogus' Kurdish asylum seekers
in this way, after an appeal in Britain's High Court failed to reverse
this policy." (p12)
for those who somehow manage to live here there is the policy of dispersal.
In Glasgow alone:
"There have been more than 70 racist attacks in the Sighthill area
since refugees began arriving on the estate, more than a year ago, often
under cover of darkness. Refugees have complained of being spat at and
verbally abused ... Many of them have remained holed up in their flats,
too frightened to venture out". In Robina Qureshi's opinion:
"The government must have known that bringing empty council houses
into use for" its targeted "asylum seekers would result in mass
concentration of asylum seekers and fuel racial tensions in already deprived
council estates". (p14)
Investigative reporters have observed that NATO and the EU have (through
the Schengen agreement and the expansion of 'Europol') developed
ideological agendas which seek the criminalisation of 'Turkish'
Kurdish asylum seekers and refugee communities which they perceived to
be 'pro-Kurdish' and/or 'pro-PKK' in orientation.
According to the lawyer Gareth Peirce, "the British and Turkish governments,
under the rubric of 'suppression of terrorism', have managed
to criminalise the Kurdish (refugee) community of Great Britain. Without
engaging the legitimacy of a Kurdish struggle for national rights, the
British police has deliberately worked to cast doubt on every Kurd in
the UK as terrorist suspects". (p15)
Fernandes' report notes that the only potential source of terrorism
in Britain identified by name alongside the IRA in (ex-MI5 head) Stella
Rimmington's maiden broadcast were 'the Kurds'.
"MI5 and police Special Branch are making a considerable investment
in portraying Kurds in Britain as terrorists" and criminals. "With
such expenditure of resources, they are likely to be looking for results,
if only to maintain their credibility and position within the increasingly
competitive world of the British security and intelligence services."
That such results are accomplished by provocation and frame-ups should
come as no surprise - the report has details on several framing, incitements
and intimidation incidents - but if our society refuses to distinguish
between the guilty and not guilty we are all in danger.
British intelligence information about émigré political
activities is also exchanged with the Turkish State. According to Tony
Bunyan, the editor of Statewatch, MI5 seem to be doing the job of the
murderous Turkish Secret Police:
"...they will come to public meetings of the group ... They will
take down the numbers of the cars which are outside the building, a technique
which again goes way back and was widely used in the days of the Campaign
for Nuclear Disarmament (CND) in this country. They will try and infiltrate
the group and get a feel for the group and ... they will often use inducements.
They say: 'We will give you the right to stay in this country. We
will get you a passport, if you give us information, if you will inform
on your group'. These are well-tried (targeting) techniques from
their history. They will produce assessments of the threat posed by the
groups. They will associate groups with terrorists - 'all refugees
equal criminals, equal terrorists' ... Of course, they have a long
history of working with their counterparts, with their so-called friendly
allies in NATO, which has included the CIA, and (with) Mossad and no doubt
Turkish intelligence. There is a long history of collusion with these
foreign intelligence agencies".(p17)
The report distressingly suggests that police agents and the Special Branch
PKK Desk were allegedly involved in:
"making deals with actual criminals; hit-men who are subcontracted
to carry out physical assaults and intimidation of the ('pro-Kurdish'
refugee) community. Outside London, the situation is worse. Through phone
tapping and informants, police are tipped off about any (public community/refugee
centre) event taking place: in one case prior to a (public Kurdish) community
centre event in Scotland" - which was taking place legally - "police
were waiting outside to arrest Kurds from the local community arriving
to attend. Those travelling from London" - again, perfectly legally - "to
address the meeting, were stopped six times en route by police controls.
Another witness elsewhere revealed the gun he was given by police to 'shoot
up' visiting Kurdish (human rights) speakers...Shop keepers have
told us how they're being pressured and threatened to act as police
informants. In return for information, they're being bribed with
money or offered more secure legal/asylum status and protection."
A lot of the work here has gone to a booming private sector, some of whom
even offer extra-judicial killings as a service. The report also mentions
the UK based 'consultancy group', Aims Ltd (which I believe
has some connection to the old far-right Aims of Industry organisation)
which through its close links to British Intelligence and the SAS:
"...also happens to be the organisation which was exposed as having
"plotted to assassinate Abdullah Ocalan, leader of the ... PKK group"
and "offered to arrange to irradiate Kurdish rebels held by the Turks
in northern Iraq. The company told Turkish authorities that after the
Kurds were released, the radiation would make it possible to track"
and target "their movements and follow them to their bases. It added
that the prisoners could fall ill from radiation poisoning within 21 days".
It was also "one of two British firms which provided military equipment
and training facilities to members of the Turkish special forces who captured
How did they get access to radioactive material? No action is being taken
against this company - why is this? It would seem that if you have
the right contacts you can not openly plot murder in the UK but make money
out of it. Somehow or other that is not terrorism.
The implications of the Terrorism Act 2000 were still unfolding as the
report was being written, but it notes that organisations such a the Campaign
Against Racism and Fascism are warning that:
"the Act's provisions are drawn so widely as to give police
and prosecutors freedom to arrest most people who are involved in any
way in refugee communities' activities or in solidarity work".
Anyone in the UK writing an article or speaking in support of Kurdish
self-determination could be construed as supporting a proscribed organisation.
A meeting in any public venue which is "in support of asylum rights
(but) which is addressed by a member of one of the organisations"
which has been proscribed (e.g. The PKK) "could land the organisers
How can democratic opposition be said to exist here? With the recent World
Trade Centre bombings and Tony Blair's increased commitment to assist
the US government in its war' against 'global terrorism' - and
the enactment of ever more intrusive 'fast-tracked' anti-terrorism
laws - it seems even more likely that Kurdish refugee - and other - communities
in the UK will feel the unaccountable wrath of Europol, MI5 and Special
Branch. These organisations are clearly (as the report argues) being increasingly
'tasked' to 'target' and obtain quick populist results
against proscribed 'global terrorist' organisations.
The situation in Germany is in some ways more advanced in the criminalisation
of Kurdish Asylum Seekers and Refugee Communities. Here mainstream politicians
adopted the rhetoric of the far-right and incited an atmosphere of racial
hatred. A special investigator for the European Parliament's Commission
of Inquiry on Racism and Xenophobia states that it legitimised their views
and gave neo-Nazis the green light to step up their attacks:
"Eager to instrumentalise the asylum question, the government of
Helmut Kohl was deeply implicated in the neo-fascist resurgence that occurred
in Germany ... Gunter Grass went so far as to liken members of Kohl's
cabinet to 'white collar skinheads' who were even more dangerous
than the ultra-right-wing street gangs. 'They are nicely dressed
with beautiful hair. They speak well. But they think in the same way as
the young kids who shave their heads and carry swastikas and demonstrate...'"
We can compare this with the situation now in the UK and make some predictions
of a likely future. We also saw a similar picture of active recruitment
among the Italian police of far-right activists in Genoa and their use - dressed
as police - against peaceful demonstrators.
The criminalisation and targeting is also a result of Turkish State's
'Psychological Warfare Operations', which Fernandes has written
about in Variant and elsewhere. In Germany members of the Turkish Secret
Service (MIT) were caught completely out of control and behind arson attacks
against Turkish-owned businesses in Germany. The social chaos and destruction
that is the cost of this collusion and importation of Turkey's dirty
war is having an increasingly destabilising effect on UK society - it
has destroyed civil society and freedom in Turkey.
"According to determinations made by Germany's Federal Office
for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), an MIT employee working
in Turkey's Consulate General in Stuttgart stored a large quantity
of gasoline in 20-litre containers, despite the fact that his vehicle
had a diesel engine. It is stated that this gasoline was utilized in attacks
against Turkish businesses. MIT then sought to" unfairly target,
criminalise and "blame the PKK" and its Kurdish refugee supporters
in Germany "for these arson attacks in order to tarnish the public
image of the Kurds. German intelligence officials (have) thus arrived
at the conclusion that 'Turkey was doing all in its power to ensure
that Germany would perceive the PKK as an enemy of the state'"
and act accordingly to target/criminalise/deport its refugee 'supporters'
within the country."
Fernandes' report confirms that there has been extensive targeting
and criminalisation of Kurdish asylum seekers and refugee communities
in the UK and Germany over the past two decades - all of which - deserves
to be revealed, morally damned and opposed.