‘Win… or die’: Algerian man in Moss Side facing deportation ends hunger strike after councillors pledge support

Exclusive by Danielle Wainwright

An Algerian man who fled from persecution and spent a painful 29 days on hunger strike after the UK Border Agency refused his claim to remain in Manchester has agreed to resume eating.

MM reported here that Houcine Senoussaoui began his protest last month after the UKBA refused to allow him to stay in Moss Side after he fled Algeria 13 years ago.

Houcine, who met his wife in Bosnia while doing humanitarian work during the war, took matters into his own hands and refused to eat claiming that his case would end in either ‘justice or death’.

But now Councillor Afzal Khan, Executive Lead on Children and Families for Manchester City Council, has visited Houcine, his wife Alma and their children along with councillors Alistair Cox and Roy Walters who reassured Houcine that they want to do everything possible to support the family until a resolution can be found. 

Houcine said: “I am very grateful to the councillors that they have come to see us and shown their concerns and support towards me and my family.

“The 29 days without food was not easy but, compared to 13 years of home office torture, it was very easy.  I have only two options, win my case or die here.”

Cllr Khan explained: “As councillors, we have no jurisdiction over asylum claims but, on a humanitarian level, my colleagues and I wanted to visit Houcine and his family to ensure their welfare during what has been a difficult and traumatic time.

“I am glad Houcine has chosen to end his hunger strike and will continue to follow his case with interest.”

Houcine’s hunger strike began on July 15 after his latest appeal for asylum was rejected three days earlier.

The Home Office refused his right to asylum because of an Italian conviction which was pardoned by the court in Milan.

Gray Mcindoe, Houcine’s solicitor, has submitted an appeal which may take up to 16 weeks before it is heard.

Even with the support of his family, Houcine worries for their safety after an attempt on his wife’s life by Algerian security forces in Bosnia caused her to miscarriage.

“The past month was the hardest month in my life,” Alma said.

“Every bite I took I felt guilty eating it knowing that my husband was starving himself to death just to gain back his dignity.  I’m happy that he’s going to be able to have dinner with us but at the same time I understand that there is a long way to go and the fight for justice has just begun.

“I would like to thank the councillors for visiting our house and offering their help and support. I’m very grateful to them.”

Houcine applied for asylum because of threats he received in Algeria and which continued when he and Alma lived together in Bosnia. The Home Office accept that, if Houcine is returned to Algeria, he would be subject to imprisonment and torture.

As Alma is a Bosnian national, the Home Office claim that he would be safe in Bosnia, and they expect all the family to return there. 

However, the Bosnian state authorities operate a policy of returning those originally from Arabic countries to their countries of origin, without regard to their family, children or any ties to Bosnia with the likelihood that Houcine would be sent directly to Algeria immediately upon arrival.  

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The Home Office only returns individuals if both we and the courts are satisfied they do not qualify for protection and have no legal basis to remain in the country.

“All applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules. The onus is on the individual to provide the necessary evidence to support their application.

“When someone is found not to have a right to be here, we expect them to leave voluntarily. If they fail to do so, we will seek to remove them.”

Image courtesy of Richard Vignola via Flickr, with thanks.

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