Asylum Seekers / Refugees

Under threat of deportation; ‘stateless’ asylum seeker seeks sanctuary from Saudia Arabia.

A, is an Asylum seeker from Saudi Arabia living in Derby – fearful for his future. Every day anxious that it will be his last day, expecting to be seized and deported, back to a dangerous country!

Despite being born in Saudia Arabia, he is defined as a “foreigner”  by the regime, and so  “stateless”; this affects his human rights and his opportunity to live in peace . Now, if he returns, he’ll be considered a criminal as his residence permit will not be renewed  by the Saudi government – not for what he’s done,  but for who he is!

Why would the UK deport someone whose family has supported the British in the Middle East for 180 years, who had British Protectorate passports, and whose family members have been handsomely decorated for their loyalty to this country over the last century?

Back to the beginning…

His story is a complicated one, that starts in the mid-19th century. His ancestors, the Abdali tribe,  were the royal family that controlled the Lahej region,   including the port of Aden on the southern tip of the Arabian peninsula ( in modern day Yemen). Aden was a vital port for the British Empire in the trading routes to India.

Modern Day Middle East – Aden, south coast of Yemen

Southern Arabian Peninsula – 1965

A’s ancestor, the Sultan, signed an agreement , and Treaty of Friendship in 1839 which gave the British rights to use and occupy the port. In 1882, a further section of the region was sold to the British and in that agreement in Article VII it stated:

“And the territories of the said Sultan Fadthl bin Ali Mohsin Fadthl, his heirs and successors, shall remain under British protection as heretofore”

A binding commitment of safety, for ever…including that of A.

Following great service to the British Empire, in 1902, the Sultan at the time, was awarded the prestigious Knights Commander of the Order of the Star of India (KCSI), and took the title of “Sir”. Subsequent Sultans up to the 1950s were also allowed to use this title.

The region in which A’s family ruled was formally part of the broader area of the West Aden Protectorate, governed by the British. Later, the Federation of South Arabia was created, also subject to British protection.

The road to betrayal by the British…

In the late 1950s Arab nationalism, Egyptian expansionism and the Cold War was taking effect in the region, Sir William Luce, the Governor of Aden stated in April 1958:

“we now have on our doorstep two powerful influences—both hostile; and we must assume that both Russia and Egypt will support and exploit the long-standing ambition of the Imam to secure Yemeni domination of both the Aden Protectorate and Colony.”

The desire by the British to pull out, to save money, and avoid unnecessary conflict accelerated in the 1960s.

The Sultan of Lahej at this time (he was the uncle of A’s grandfather) was the Minister of Defence in the Federation of South Arabia so was working very closely with the British;  he, and the family, were well-positioned and had  British Protectorate passports

British Passport of A’s Father

By 1964, Anthony Greenwood the Colonial Secretary, broke off all dialogue with the local “feudal rulers” and started to engage with the forces who were hostile to the British. In the 1966 Defence Review a complete withdrawl from South Arabia was announced…in 1968. Those who had sided with the British, including A’s family were now “sitting ducks”

They were betrayed by the British.

A bleak future for the Sultan and his family

Smitson, in the “Road to Good Intentions” summed up:

“The leadership in the Federation was now faced with the stark reality that there would be no protection from Britain, diplomatically or militarily, against the rising forces of nationalism and insurgency within Aden Colony and the Protectorate. Those linked with the Federation now had the choice  of siding with the anti-Federation forces increasingly gaining control of the territory, or maintaining allegiance to a governing structure that had little caché amongst the population and had no means, militarily, diplomatically, or otherwise, to stem the tide of civil war and insurgency consuming the Southwest Arabian Peninsula.”

John Lee MP, in the Aden Bill debate on 19 June 1967 realised:

“At the same time, there will be no protection provided for the sheikhs whom we will have left behind, unless the Government are to go on providing military and  financial assistance to shore them up year after year, even though we cannot really afford it, and even though the only ultimate effect of our doing so will be to make it more and more apparent—to the nationalist movements in other territories, if that were necessary—that they are nothing more or less than our stooges.”

They themselves can hardly be blamed for accepting assistance—for not looking a gift horse in the mouth—but we will do them no service. In the end, the sheikhs of the Federation will find themselves in the same pathetic situation as the Sultan of Zanzibar—probably exiled, if they are lucky enough to get away in time. I take no pleasure in that, I am not suggesting that we should be contemptuous of them. They are products of the historical situation that we have allowed to grow up there. The fact remains that, by putting them into this Federation and calling it an independent country, we will only make more certain their eventual destruction

On 24th September 1966, the Sultan and his family received a death threat from the Commandoes of the Liberation Front – Military Affairs to leave the country.  Their choices were now very limited.

Exiled to Saudia Arabia…

The Sultan and his family fled in 1967, and sought sanctuary in Saudia Arabia. They retained their British Protectorate passports.  As they were due to expire, A’s Great-Grandfather discussed renewing them  with the British Embassy officials.  They rejected this request and told them to return to their country of birth, despite this being a dangerous place for them. It had recently become the independent communist controlled South Yemen following British withdrawal.

The family was allowed to stay in Saudia Arabia as a “diplomatic status”.  The South Yemenis knew that the Sultan was a powerful man and could cause problems if he returned home. The Yemenis  agreed not to venture into Saudia Arabia, militarily, provided the Saudis kept the family far from the border. They effectively became a “bargaining chip” between 2 countries.

As a “chip”, the family had some value to the Saudi regime.  Following the unification of North and South Yemen, and the end of the subsequent civil war in 1994, which resulted in the exiling of many of the Socialist leaders, the family’s power and value in the region deteriorated; soon after, they began to lose their rights in Saudi Arabia.

Life for A in Saudi Arabia.

A, who was born in 1980, had an education until he was 16, then this stopped.  He could only do things with permission of the government e.g. using hospitals, accessing services. It was a tortuous process to do anything official e.g.  signing contracts, owning property, borrowing money, buying a car. He was allowed to work, but it was difficult to secure a job without personal connections;  typically he got paid far less than Saudi nationals.

Nationality in Saudi Arabia is controlled by the King – it can be granted and removed without notice.  A’s family has never been granted any form of nationality. They all had 2 documents:

  1. Residence Permit – this makes the holder a legal resident for the purposes of identification and access to services, internally.
  2. Travel document – issued by the order of the Minister of Interior which allows movement in and out of the country.

A Saudi national will have a National ID, instead of the Residence Permit – this confirms nationality and citizenship.

A and his family were “Stateless” –  their British Protectorate passports expired, as that entity had disappeared. The documentation that they had was normally only provided to foreign nationals living in Saudia Arabia who had a passport of another country – they didn’t have that. This anomaly was going to unravel at some point.

Claiming asylum in the UK

A visited the UK in early 2016 to see family members living in London.  He was aware that the Saudi government had refused to renew his Grandfather’s travel document in 2013, but that negotiation was an on-going process and he felt that it would be resolved. His travel document had over a year to run.

During A’s UK visit, he found out that his Residence Permit was not going to be renewed ; it was due to expire on the 18th September 2017, along with the rest of the family.  He knew that if he returned, he would have no rights, no opportunity to work, to move,  to have a bank account, to exist – he would have a criminal status, and be imprisoned. On this basis he claimed asylum in the UK.

His travel document is due to expire on 12 November 2017 at which point he will have no right of entry into Saudi Arabia.

The Home Office has not accepted his case. It is away from the norm, and the real root of A’s problem stems from the history of his family’s engagement with the British in Aden as well as the expectation that he had British Protectorate status.

He has been vocal on-line about the human rights abuses in Saudia Arabia and, together with the fact that he has claimed asylum, will mean that, should he be returned, his future will be very uncertain.

The situation now…

Last week A’s Father went to renew the family’s Residence Permits. He was told that as long as they held a “foreigner holding Saudi Passport” travel document then they would not be renewed. The officials told him that they “have to obtain other country passport in order to be renewed”. When he told them that they have no other passport he was told “These are the orders!”

A vicious circle with no resolution.

On the 18th September 2017, his brother, who lives in Saudi Arabia received a text from the Saudi Arabia British Bank, somewhat starkly, stating:

“ As your ID information with SABB was not updated , your accounts with us were blocked on 18 /09/2017”

Now they cannot access their money.  A’s other brother requires regular kidney dialysis which they now have to pay for, but can’t.  They are considered illegal. Anyone helping them is at risk and  will be penalised. They are now stuck with nowhere to go.

A’s  Father pleads, in a letter to A this week:

“ We pray to Almighty to improve our lives and ease our situation. It is so sad after living 50 years we still have no Nationality and a clear status.

May Almighty stand with and beside us and help us”

Having a nationality is a “Human right”, and being “stateless” is grounds for being given protection under International Law. A is “stateless” due to the actions of the British Government in the 1960s.

The Britsh Government continues to try and deport him!


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