On 28th November 2006 two men were removed from the, soon to be demolished, flats on Catherine Road. Through an interpreter, the men said:
“Just after 9:00am we heard a banging at the door.We were still asleep at that time and the banging woke us up.The front door was smashed open with some sort of heavy ramming device. 5 or 6 builders entered.They all wore builders’ hard hats and fluorescent jackets.They said we had to get out.They started shouting loudly at us.They began to throw our possessions about, things like our small camping stove. The men then started to smash the glass in the windows.The broken glass covered me.Then one of the men grabbed my arm and started to pull me towards the door. We were told to take our personal possessions out of the flat. I took some things but couldn't carry all I wanted to take.”
Sheffield Homes owned the site, but the demolition was due to be carried out by contractors Redwall Developments, under contract to Arches Houses. Redwall deny forcibly removing the men and the incident is now the subject of an inquiry by Sheffield City Council, due to report in February.
But why did two men choose to live in unheated flats which were due to be demolished in the middle of winter? The men are Kurdish asylum seekers who, like many asylum seekers in Sheffield, are destitute. They have no income; no accommodation and are not allowed to work or claim any benefits.
As The Messenger reported in December 2005 (Concern for Iraqi Kurds) the Home Office posted an ultimatum to Iraqi Kurdish asylum seekers. In these letters the Home Office claimed that there was now a “safe route of return” to northern Iraq. They added that unless Iraqi Kurdish asylum seekers agreed “voluntarily” to return to “safe” Iraq they would “be required to leave (their) accommodation and will not be entitled to any other form of support”. This threat has since been followed by forced deportations to Iraq.
Is Iraq Safe Now?
Despite the end of Saddam and the formation of the Kurdish Regional Government, Iraqi Kurds face serious dangers if they return home. They are: persecution from the main Kurdish parties following the civil war of the 1990’s; repression by the corrupt Kurdish Government and the ethnic violence which has engulfed the whole of Iraq following the US/UK occupation. Ari Moustafa from the Kurdish Community Centre, described the situation in Kirkuk, an Iraqi city with a large Kurdish population: “Every Kurdish house in Kirkuk has a sign put on it. The sign says ‘leave now’”. The situation for most Kurds from Iran, Turkey or Syria is no better.
The two Kurdish men came to this country to find somewhere safe to stay, but they continue to be to denied this right.
by Stuart Crosthwaite
An indepth report by Stuart on the situation faced by Iraqi Kurds can be found in our Archives, November 2006, called The plight of the Iraqi Kurds.