LONDON: A British woman living in Spain who helped 11 Syrian asylum seekers after they were deported from the UK and abandoned in Madrid has said she is ashamed of the British government’s behavior.
The group of men, ranging from teenagers to those in their 40s, were left on the streets of Madrid with no possessions, including their IDs, after being deported by the UK’s Home Office last week.
They arrived in Britain in small boats, having traveled via Calais, and some of the men told The Guardian newspaper that they had close family members in the country.
Barbara Pomfret, a 45-year-old British woman living in Granada, Spain, said she wanted to offer the group support after learning about their story.
She bought them food, paid for days of accommodation for them, and set up a crowdfunding page to assist them further.
“As a UK citizen I am ashamed that our government would leave asylum seekers on the streets with absolutely no support,” Pomfret said.
“As I see it, the only difference between me and this group of people is luck. And if I was ever so unlucky as to find myself in a similar situation I hope that someone with more luck would be willing to help me.”
As refugees fleeing the Syrian conflict, the group has strong grounds to claim asylum in the UK.
But according to EU legislation, they can be returned to the first confirmed safe country they arrived in during their transit, although issues such as torture and family ties should be considered. All of the asylum seekers have fled persecution, and some have experienced torture.
The men, who all come from the same part of southern Syria, told The Guardian that in the absence of their families, they wanted to remain together.
The group expressed their gratitude to Pomfret and Spanish activists who have helped them, but emphasized that their current situation is unsustainable.
“I miss my family so much,” said one of the asylum seekers, aged 45. “I have brothers in the UK. We traveled there on small boats because we wanted to reunite with them.”
Recently, the issue of illegal immigration via the English Channel — the world’s busiest shipping lane — has become a hot button issue in British politics.
Escalating numbers of asylum seekers and economic migrants have been making the dangerous crossing, prompting the UK to deploy military assets in an attempt to detect and deter crossings. Despite this, hundreds continue to arrive almost daily.
The Home Office has promised to remove 1,000 people who arrived in the UK in small boats via the English Channel, but have only returned 37 since last month, and a total of 185 since October 2018.