Hakeem Dawd Faraj
Thousands of British Kurds have problems renewing their passports
Hakeem Dawd Faraj
Thousands of British Kurds are having difficulty in renewing their UK passports because of discrepancies between the personal information they gave when arriving in the UK, such as name and date of birth, and what is listed on official documents. The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) have estimated that 8,000 Iraqis living in the UK have had their British passports seized or suspended, including 2,000 Kurds.
Affected people have staged two protests in London’s Parliament Square against the decision by the UK’s Home Office to do so, but so far no action has been taken to address their concerns.
Ali Nejim a 39-year-old from Sulaimani city, reported that he came to the UK when he was 20. “When I first arrived here my friends told me to use a fake name and a wrong date of birth during my interview. So I did what they told me, but I didn’t know it would be a huge issue for me,” he said.
“At that time, Saddam’s regime was in power. There was a fear of deportation, so we did not want them to have our real identity.”
Unofficial data shows that the majority of Iraqi Kurds sought asylum for political reasons, especially those who came when Saddam Hussein was ruling Iraq. They struggled through difficult conditions until they got British passports, but now the Home Office has confiscated them.
The Kurdistan Parliament and the Kurdistan Regional Government are aware off the issue, but say that they do not have accurate data about the potential deportees.
The Spokesperson of KRG’s Representative in the UK Khasro Ajgayi explained that many Kurds who came to the UK over the last three decades gave different names, dates, and places of birth from their official Iraqi documents and that some of them even changed their nationality. Now, when they apply to bring their spouses over to the UK, they are required by the authorities to provide original Iraqi documentation in order to process their applications, which bring to light those discrepancies. This results in their renewal applications being revoked.
During the protests, the demonstrators called on Home Office to stop “holding their right of citizenship,” “hand over” their British passports, and process their suspended applications. One banner displayed at the demonstrations read: “First I came seeking asylum, now I am seeking my passport.”
The majority of protesters cannot visit their family and relatives who are living in Kurdistan Region, while others cannot either reunite with their family members by bringing their spouses and children to the UK.
Secretary of the IFIR Dashty Jamal said that they had started an online petition last year, which has collected more than 400 signatures, hoping to gather enough support to force parliament to hold an emergency session on the issue.
He argued that the decision to sieze passports from British Kurds is against the basic human rights.
“These people have every right to bring their wives and children to the UK, regardless of what they said many years ago during their interviews when they gave wrong information to protect their lives,” he explained.
The IFIR has contacted Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn, Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and the Green Party asking for their support in Parliament. After two demonstrations and many meetings with MPs, still no officials from the Home Office have answered their requests. However, Jamal confirmed that the Home Office has not yet threatened deportation or revocation of their British citizenship, although officials have said that they will toughly investigate each case.
Press Officer for the Immigration and Passports Department Mike Frier said in a reply to an email: “Unfortunately, we are unable to provide information at this time,” without going further into the issue.
Both the Kurdistan Parliament and the KRG representative have discussed this issue with some UK MPs and government officials, in order to find appropriate solution for this issue.
Kurdistan Parliament lawmaker Sirwan Baban, who is a member of Foreign Relations and Kurdish Diaspora Committee, confirmed that there was a recent discussion with a UK parliamentary delegation about the issue and that they will continue to work to solve the problem.
According to Baban, the committee is now discussing a draft of resolution to address a broad range of issues that Kurds abroad are facing, including this one. The regular steps of the resolution will take at least six months to be passed by Parliament, he said.
He is optimistic that a new law can solve the problem and support Kurds in the UK, but not those who have “illegal demands, such as issuing fake or forged Iraqi Identification.”