A refugee who fled Iran – where he was tortured for refusing to shoot anti-government protesters – was just days away from being deported to Rwanda.
Bahram*, an Iranian ex-police commander, travelled to the UK after an Iranian military court sentenced him to almost five years in jail in 2019.
On Friday, he received a last-minute letter from the Home Office informing him that he will no longer be on the first scheduled deportation flight to Rwanda.
Several other refugees have also been told they will no longer be on the flight, which is due to take off tomorrow after the plan was contested by human rights groups and lawyers.
Home secretary Priti Patel hoped to send more than a hundred refugees to the East African country on Tuesday, under a controversial new scheme that will see asylum claims processed offshore.
But the charity Care4Calais said it is aware of only ten people who are still scheduled to be deported.
Although he will not be on this flight to Rwanda, Bahram still faces the threat of deportation in the future.
“I cannot be happy. My whole heart is with all the refugees who will be forced to take the flight to Kigali and seek asylum from the government of Rwanda and according to Rwandan laws,” he told openDemocracy. “I am also still very stressed about what will happen next.”
Bahram said he came to the UK to seek asylum and was unaware of the Rwanda plan when he arrived.
On Friday, a judge rejected an injunction by human rights groups to stop the deportation flight altogether. The Public and Commercial Services Union (PCS), Care4Calais and Detention Action, along with four asylum seekers facing removal, had issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court.
The court case revealed that the United Nations had twice told the Home Office that its plan is unlawful. Lawyers representing the asylum seekers accused the government of falsely claiming it had the support of the international organisation.
An appeal is being held today and a larger legal case against the scheme will be heard over the coming weeks.
On Saturday, Human Rights Watch warned that Rwanda cannot be considered a safe third country to send asylum seekers because of it has a track record of serious human rights violations.
The Home Office told openDemocracy that it would not comment on individual cases.
*Bahram’s name has been changed to protect his identi