The case of Binyam Mohamed


US websites give a coherent account of Mr Mohamed’s Afghan activities but their material is open to the challenge that it may have been obtained through torture. On the other hand, Mr Mohamed’s own story, as reported by Andy Worthington, provokes some disturbing queries and observations, and these are examined below:

  • Binyam Mohamed came to Britain because of alleged racist bullying at his school in the US, whither his father returned. While he had good reason to dislike the US,  he claims he would never have fought against American soldiers.
  • Mr Mohamed has given differing explanations for wanting to go to Afghanistan. According to the BBC profile on 23 February 2009, he wanted to get away to kick his drug habit and to see how a pure Islamic state functioned. According to the interview reported by Worthington on 9 March, he was appalled by television reports in London of the sufferings of the Chechens and wished to travel there as an aid worker. The two explanations are not incompatible, but the latter has significant implications.
  • Mr Mohamed is incorrect in stating that refugees in the UK have no means of obtaining travel documents. The process is clearly explained on the UK Border Agency’s website; and there are various agents on the net offering to help those in Mr Mohamed’s position.
  • Mr Mohamed had no reason, therefore, to borrow a friend’s passport and change the photograph in order to travel unless he had reasons for travelling not under his own name. It also seems unlikely that a makeshift photo substitution by an amateur would have withstood even cursory scrutiny at immigration control after leaving England or entering Pakistan.
  • During his truck journey into Afghanistan in 2001, Mr Mohamed says that he ‘kept down.’ Why this furtiveness in the relatively relaxed climate pre 9/11, given that his intentions were peaceful and his papers, however obtained, had proved sufficient to cross two frontiers ?
  • Mr Mohamed states that he was in a Kabul hospital at the time of 9/11 and fled with ‘a tide of refugees’. This was presumably in November 2001, possibly just before the fall of Kabul in that month. He next appears at Karachi airport in June 2002. He gives no details of his journeyings during this 7-month period, raising further queries about his means of supporting himself.
  • Mr Mohamed says that, on leaving Afghanistan, he only wanted “to get back to London, to the country that I thought of as home, to continue my education and find a job; to get back to my life, minus the drugs.” On his arrival in London on 21 February 2009, his lawyer confirmed that view. Now, however, he has started a legal action against the very Government which has given him sanctuary again. The ramifications of this action seem to go well beyond what he requires for the purposes of receiving compensation for any complicity in his maltreatment, and provides a cause célèbre for our politically motivated human rights industry. Has he become a pawn in the hands of that industry and of grasping human rights lawyers who stand to receive large sums at taxpayers’ expense? Is he aware that the only victims of the disclosure which his lawyers seek will be the sort of ordinary people amongst whom he hopes to live? Has he given any thought to their security?

Editorial Comment

This case pinpoints defects in the whole asylum issue as administered by the British authorities at several levels.

  • It is clear that Binyam Mohamed is being treated as if he were a fully-fledged British citizen – which he is not.
  • He was in fact finally granted residence for 4 years in 1998, which permission ran out in 2002.
  • Mr Mohamed was not therefore a legal resident of the United Kingdom when he was brought to the UK from Guantánamo in February 2009, despite his being described by the BBC and the press as a “British Resident”.  In fact by reason of the expiry of his residency, if for no other reason, he clearly should be deported to the USA.
  • The fact that he claimed and was considered for asylum on coming from the US is itself a breach of the 1951 Convention on Refugees, which is what Britain is supposedly bound by.  The 1951 Convention and the European Convention on Human Rights are both clear that refugees cannot asylum shop – they have to apply in the first country they wind up in – in this case the USA.
  • If someone seeking asylum in Britain has fallen foul of the authorities in another safe country or simply prefers another country, that places no obligation whatever on the UK to accept him.
  • The British Courts’ approach, as evidenced by this and many other asylum cases is to disregard completely the actual provision of the 1951 Convention where they restrict asylum seekers’ rights to the first safe country they reach and instead to apply human rights legislation as if they were British citizens.
  • More generally, the Courts appear to put the alleged needs of the individual foreigner in front of the interests of the British people as a whole, as do the administrators of our public services – witness the handing out of a council flat to Mr Mohamed at the age of 18 after only two years residence in this country, during which time no taxes or national insurance contributions were paid by him or his father .
  • Many judgements of the Courts in these matters have provoked outrage among British citizens lawfully resident in the UK and underline the urgent need for repeal of the Human Rights Act and UK adherence to the 1951 Convention on Refugees.
  • The need for these repeals and their replacement by a statute which distinguishes clearly the rights of  British citizens from those of foreigners will be developed in a future article.


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