Iraqi newspaper journalist Rzhwan Amin (Jaf), who has sought asylum in the UK and has been based in Greater Manchester since June 2010, fled Iraq after receiving threats to his life.
Rzhwan, who is 32 and a member of the NUJ, wrote political reports for newspapers in Baghdad and Kirkuk, an area that is the centre of disputes between Arabic and Kurdish groups over its control and is home to some of the country’s largest oil fields. Bomb blasts in Kirkuk city, on 17th January this year caused around 21 deaths and 170 injuries according to an Associated Press report.
Rzhwan was detained on the 8th January when he went to report to the Dallas Court Home Office Reporting Centre in Salford after the UK Border Agency refused his latest claim for asylum.
He had been living in the Droylsden area of the city.
He is currently being held at the Morton Hall immigration removal centre in Lincolnshire. The UKBA plan to have him forcibly removed and have issued his plane ticket to Iraq for Wednesday 30th January.
The Manchester and Salford NUJ branch believe there is substantial evidence to support claims that his life is at serious risk should he return to the country and are campaigning for him to be granted asylum.
Kath Grant, secretary of the branch, said: “We were struck by his story and have evidence from journalists in Iraq which supports it.
“We believe it would be a breach of his right to freedom of expression for the government to forcibly deport him from the UK.
“We’re campaigning as much as possible to raise awareness of Rzhwan’s asylum case and are asking people to write to the home secretary, the immigration minister and Rzhwan’s MP in Ashton-Under-Lyne David Heyes.”
Statistics obtained by IntAKE and the Kurdistan Journalists Syndicate allege that in between 75 -105 media personnel and/or organisations have faced violence, threats or detention in Iraq during 2012.
Iraq fell 22 places in the Reporters without borders press freedom index tables between 2010 and 2011/2012. The organisation believes violence towards journalists is again increasing in the country to higher 2008 levels.
Rzhwan’s two claims for asylum were dismissed by the Home Office and court tribunals whose judges found his supporting documents to be unreliable. These included statements confirming the volatile political situation in Iraq and his story from academics, Reporters Without Borders, Kirkuk-based journalists and the Journalistic Freedoms Observatory of Iraq as well as the NUJ.
His lawyers have sought a high court judicial review due to take place today to contest the findings.
Rzhwan said: “I don’t believe that they considered my documents adequately. I think there’s a lot of evidence in support of my case.
“I’m quite hopeful about the review but uncertain as to what a rejection of my claim could mean for my planned deportation later in the week.
“The situation has been very stressful and has made me incredibly anxious.”
Reporters without Borders have prepared a letter of support for Rzhwan.
Since arriving in the UK Rzhwan has been active in several voluntary organisations in the area including Manchester Refugee Support Network and as a case worker for the British Red Cross where he completed an NVQ level three in Advice and Guidance. He is currently studying Public Sector Professions and Psychology in Manchester and has been offered a conditional offer to study at the University of Salford in September.
David Heyes MP and the UKBA were unable to comment on his case.