Caledoniyya

Out of the Iraqi Frying Pan and into the British Fire

Such tales as these always induce a deep cringe of shame at the sheer malice of fellow British citizens.

When 31-year-old Dr Sarkhell Radha, an Iraqi Kurd, fled Iraq in 2002 he left behind not only torture and persecution, but also his family and a promising career as a orthopaedic specialist.

Having reached British shores, one would expect things to improve; sadly, this was not to be the case: after applying for asylum he was placed in a detention centre for seven days, before his application was turned down.

Later overturned, Radha relocated to Stockton-on-Tees, living on Β£37 per week and enduring abuse from the local residents:

There were no black minority ethnic groups there and I had daily abuse, it was physical and verbal, everything, we were too scared to go out during [the] night.
Some locals used to stone our house every night. I shared with another asylum seeker who had an English girlfriend and they had a little girl. Once some people threw fireworks inside the window of the house and it landed on the coat of the baby. If she had been there she could have died.

There were no black minority ethnic groups there and I had daily abuse, it was physical and verbal, everything, we were too scared to go out during [the] night.Β Some locals used to stone our house every night. I shared with another asylum seeker who had an English girlfriend and they had a little girl. Once some people threw fireworks inside the window of the house and it landed on the coat of the baby. If she had been there she could have died. [Source]

While the story ends well – Radha ultimately attained a position at Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Gateshead – it nonetheless highlights the enduring xenophobia in British society.

For Radha, the motivations are economic:

I think my medical qualifications were held against me, unfortunately. I think they thought I had come to make money, or that was the impression I got. I said to them, though, that I had everything in my country. I had a decent job in Kurdistan. When you first come to the UK, they automatically think that you are an economic migrant.

Pecuniary or not, it is deeply disheartening that after fleeing persecution in Iraq an individual must continue to live in fear for their life.

It undermines the very notion of “asylum,” and while Radha’s experience ended positively, there are countless others who continue to suffer from bigotry for years on end.

We may think we have progressed, but that seedy underbelly of hostility remains, occasionally rearing its ugly head to remind Britain that no matter who enlightened we aspire to be, there will always be pockets of ignorance in our midst.

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This entry was posted on August 24, 2009 by in Conflict Zones, Europe, Iraq, Middle East and tagged , , , , , .
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