FECL 05 (April 1992):

UK IMMIGRATION OFFICERS ARE HANDING BACK PERSONAL INFORMATION ON ASYLUM SEEKERS TO THEIR HOME COUNTRIES GOVERNMENTS

The British government's widely critisised Asylum Bill was (temporarily?) dropped, due to lack of parliamentary time before the election (See "Government problems with Asylum law", FECL No.4; "UNHCR says British asylum bill violates Geneva Convention on Refugees", FECL No.3). But a major part of the government's "crackdown on bogus refugees" is already in force: fines for airlines who bring passengers without proper papers into Britain were doubled last year to £2,000 per passenger and evidence is now emerging that UK immigration officers are handing personal information on asylum seekers back to the government of the country whence the asylum seeker fled via national airlines.

Last November, an Iranian who claimed asylum here heard through his family that the official who forged his passport had been arrested as a result of a fine being levied against Iran Air.

When a passenger arrives at immigration control with forged documents, or no documents, an official of the "offending" airline receives a notice, which includes the flight details and name of the passenger. Because of the high levels of fines, airlines often contest these notices of liability. British Airways now employs five full-time staff to deal solely with them. Some airlines argue that the name is insufficient evidence and want to see proof of the forgery - at least to help their staff spot them in future. So British immigration officers have started to send photocopies of the offending documents.

Most refugees have little say in which airline they take. "If you want to fly", says Peyman Nasr of the Iranian Association, "you have to take Iran Air. All the other airlines require hard currency. And if you need a forged passport, you have to bribe someone in the government to do it, becausebefore you can leave, they spend up to a week checking the details against their records".

 

Source: New Statesman & Society, 20.3.92