Posted by Sadie from D007020.N1.Vanderbilt.Edu (126.96.36.199) on Tuesday, May 27, 2003 at 0:27AM :
Asylum protester sews up eyes
Monday, 26 May, 2003
BBC News Online
An Iranian Kurdish man living in Nottingham has sewn up his eyes, ears and mouth in protest at his treatment by the Home Office.
Abas Amini, 33, is on hunger strike and doctors say he could die within days.
He was granted asylum two months ago but his protest was triggered by a Home Office decision this week to appeal.
If he is sent back to Iran, he says he will be executed for his political past.
Tania Branigan, a journalist who has been following his case, says his claims of being tortured in Iran are genuine.
"He's actually a fairly well-known political poet.
"He's also been a Communist guerrilla for many years, since his early teens in fact, and has been in and out of prison for much of his life, has been tortured repeatedly.
"And in fact his claims of torture were backed up by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture."
Mr Amini fled jail in Iran for Britain two years ago, where he applied for asylum. The medical foundation's report backing his torture claims was submitted with his application.
But the asylum process has been difficult for Mr Amini, who at one stage was denied some benefits because he refused to move house.
After five adjournments, an immigration tribunal said he could stay, but the Home Office disagreed and decided to appeal.
Now Mr Amini is refusing all medical attention, including antibiotics and painkillers, despite developing an eyelid infection.
He says he will stop his protest if the government withdraws its appeal.
Sam Azad, of the Federation of Iranian Refugees, said Mr Amini had told him he was taking a stand for all the people in this country suffering from a lack of human rights.
National agencies believe the protest - the first of its kind in the UK - demonstrates the government's preoccupation with reducing asylum figures.
Keith Best, of the Immigration Advisory Service, said: "Sadly, this exemplifies a much wider problem that confronts many people.
"It goes to show we should look more at individual cases, rather than just being obsessed, as the government seems to be, by statistics."
A Home Office spokesman said Mr Amini's actions were "deeply regrettable".
Last week, Home Office figures showed a 32% fall in the number of people applying for asylum in Britain in the first three months of this year, down from 23,000 to 16,000.
Last year, asylum seekers at an Australian detention centre sewed their lips together in protest against the conditions.
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