Exclusive by Greg Russell
A SCOTS lawyer has launched a broadside at the Home Office after Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes “apologised” to a lesbian asylum seeker who was told she would be removed from the UK while she was detained in Dungavel.
Isabella Katjiparatijivi said she feared persecution in her home country of Namibia, and that her father would force her to marry a man should she return. She was detained when she reported to the Home Office in Glasgow on January 8.
Her lawyer, Usman Aslam, lodged a petition for judicial review (JR) at the Court of Session, which he said gave her three months to mount a challenge and should have halted any further action.
The Home Office subsequently postponed her removal on January 25 and she was released just a few days before.
“While there are safeguards in place to prevent removal directions being issued in error, human errors can still occur which was the case with regards to Ms Katjiparatijivi,” wrote Nokes in a letter to the woman’s MP Chris Stephens.
“In light of this error, an internal review has been commissioned and revised guidance and training is being provided to all officers who authorise the serving of removal directions.”
She also said that the submission of a JR did not automatically act as a barrier to removal, according to Home Office policy, which Usman, from McGlashan MacKay in Glasgow, hotly disputed. He told The National: “It may be helpful if the Immigration Minister and/or her advisor(s) read their own guidance before making such assertions. It is in exceptional cases where it may not be a barrier, and this is extremely limited, for example fake or weak legal grounds, and highly unlikely to happen in Scotland as an advocate would require to approve the case. The fact is that the Home Office were served with numerous letters between January 8 and 18, and they didn’t respond. A petition was lodged and court papers served on them on January 17. This was a barrier to removal.
“On January 18, they issued removal directions, which they denied even existed, until I had to show them to The National. They then cancelled the removal directions, that they said didn’t exist, and I have confirmation of this.”
Aslam, who has sought a meeting with Nokes to discuss the detention system, said her letter seemed to suggest that the Home Office was committed to delivering an asylum process that is sensitive to all kinds of persecution, including LGBT cases – but this could not be further from reality.
“The process of questioning during the asylum process has been so scandalous for years that the European courts had to eventually intervene and give guidance on what is appropriate and inappropriate questioning.
“I am happy to provide this information if the Secretary of State wish to discuss this but he, nor Ms Nokes should be making claims such as ‘the UK remains a world leader’ in asylum claims.
“This is hardly an apology. Actions speak louder than words. This is a chance to change the detention system once and for all.”
The Home Office said: “As there is ongoing legal action it would be inappropriate to comment further.”