Returning to his home town, Solyman Rashed, 28, had served over 15 months in detention on British soil and had been refused bail on more than 10 occasions. He died after just two weeks of freedom on September 3rd 2007.
Solyman came to Britain to escape persecution under Saddam Hussein’s regime after his father had been killed by the Kurdish secret police towards the end of the 1990s. Fearing for his safety he fled Kirkuk and sought asylum in Britain in 2001, where he worked legally for a number of years in variety of jobs in Manchester.
In 2004 Mr Rashed was the victim of a racial attack in a nightclub in Manchester, and while it was accepted that he acted in self defence he was sentenced to two and half years in prison which he served receiving written statements from his parole officers of good conduct and behaviour while inside.
On release, Solyman found it difficult to readjust to life and struggled to find work. After becoming homeless and destitute, he was arrested and detained once again.
He was subsequently placed in Dungavel Immigration Removal Centre in Strathaven, Scotland where he began his time in detention which was to last more than 15 months until his eventual return to Iraq.
Catrin Evans, a member of a support group that visits detainees at Dungavel and a friend until his deportation, met Solyman in September 2006: “He had lost all contact with his family in Kirkuk and could not understand why they insisted it would be safe for him to return.” Repeated bail requests were turned down as he was unable to find a fixed bail address and it began to affect his mental health. Ms Evans said: “Solyman was becoming more and more distressed, and talked of having nightmares about being killed if he returned home. He knew he was in real danger but felt that anything was better than being imprisoned.”
After around 10 months in Dungavel and a number of unsuccessful applications for bail, the Home Office began to be move Solyman around other Immigration Centres across Britain. It is a policy that has been strongly criticised by support groups as it can make it difficult for detainees to achieve continuity with their cases, as they are unable to maintain frequent contact with lawyers or friends. It may also affect the likelihood of finding a bail address, something that is often a prerequisite for a successful bail application.
Solyman had been in detention for almost a year and half, and was diagnosed with severe depression having attempted suicide on a number of occasions, suffering also from nightmares. He had always tried to remain positive but when his bail application was refused once again he was given a choice; indefinite imprisonment or return home where his safety could not be guaranteed. Unable to face any more time in detention, he chose to go back to Iraq.
The Home Office has chosen to ignore UNHCR advice to halt forced removals to Iraq until an improvement in the security situation. Instead indefinite detention seems to be used as a means to encourage Iraqi nationals to take 'voluntary return' to a country where their safety cannot be assured.