Opinions & Features November 08, 2021 at 11:00 am

Sad story of Sudanese asylum seeker who fell through a roof and died fleeing immigration officers

Mildred Europa Taylor | Head of Content

Mildred Europa Taylor November 08, 2021 at 11:00 am

November 08, 2021 at 11:00 am | Opinions & Features

After fleeing persecution in Sudan, Mustafa Dawood died while running from immigration officers. Photo: BBC

Sudanese man Mustafa Dawood had come to the UK in 2015 after escaping persecution in his home country. He was a member of the Zaghawa ethnic group from the Darfur region of western Sudan — a non-Arabic people who often face persecution from local Arab militia groups. Dawood found life difficult in Sudan. While working with his father as a lorry driver, he was often stopped and sometimes imprisoned.

He couldn’t tolerate the situation anymore and decided to leave for the UK in 2015. According to his brother, Dawood fled a campaign of ethnic cleansing against Darfur’s non-Arabs that included the Zaghawa people. Ahmed Dawood said the Home Office had been reconsidering an asylum application for his brother after it had not accepted claims he was a member of the Zaghawa ethnic group.

Months before his death, 23-year-old Dawood had moved to Newport and was living at a property operated by a private firm for the Home Office. This was while his final appeal to stay in the UK was being considered, BBC reported.

On June 30, 2018, Dawood was working illegally at a car wash in Newport when it was raided by immigration officers who had received intelligence that foreign nationals without the right to work were washing cars there. Dawood thought he would be arrested and so he fled from the officers and onto a roof. He fell through the plastic roofing at Shaftesbury hand carwash in Newport, south Wales and suffered head injuries, leading to his death, Newport Coroner’s Court heard last week.

Three years after his death, an inquest jury has found that immigration officers who chased the asylum seeker before he fell through a roof could have contributed to his death. According to the officer in charge of the operation, he abandoned the pursuit when Dawood started climbing shelving. However, the other immigration officers said they do not recall hearing the command to stop the chase.

The jury last week was shown CCTV footage of Dawood being pursued through buildings on Albany Trading Estate. A report by The Guardian said the asylum seeker climbed on to pallets and through a metal door. He squeezed his way through the locked metal door and came face to face with an officer holding a baton. Dawood subsequently climbed onto the roof and fell.

For about 30 minutes, officers searched for Dawood and later found a hole in the roof that led into a locked area. The officers, after finding Dawood unconscious on the floor with a head injury and no pulse, gave him CPR and took him to hospital in Cardiff. There, a scan showed that his injury was unsurvivable. He died that afternoon.

Last week, the jury, after three hours, decided that the actions of the officers during and after the chase could have contributed to Dawood’s death. The jury foreperson told Newport Coroner’s Court that, “During the pursuit, Mustafa started to climb and it was determined the pursuit should be abandoned. Nonetheless, officers remained relatively close and did not withdraw to a distance away from him. We consider that maintaining the proximity could have contributed to Mustafa’s death.

“We consider the decision to abandon the pursuit was not effectively communicated to all officers and that this could have been a contributory factor to Mustafa’s death. The decision for an officer to keep his baton in a racked position could have possibly contributed to Mustafa’s death.”

The jury added that the officers were not appropriately trained in pursuit procedures and this could have contributed to the asylum seeker’s death.

Dawood’s mother Hameda Hamed Shogar Ahmed has been in court throughout the inquest after having traveled from the Sudanese city of Al Fashir to the UK. She told the court that her son’s life was in danger in his home country and so decided to move to the UK, hoping to earn money to send back to his family in Sudan to support them.

“(In Sudan) there is so much killing every day, so many young people are killed or disappeared – that’s why our young men have to flee to avoid the same destiny,” she said. “My son was not a thief or a murderer, he was just a young person asking for safety.”

She said that before her son’s death, he would often call her and let her know that he was doing all right, adding that he was working hard to learn English while making friends and playing football when he is not busy.

In a statement released after the inquest, Dawood’s mother said: “By listening to the testimonies of the witnesses, several facts became apparent to us. The immigration officers were not well trained, and if they had been this disaster would have not occurred.”

“It is also important that the Home Office confirmed in the hearing that Mustafa would not have been arrested or removed from the UK if he was caught. We know that his asylum support money had been stopped improperly shortly before her incident and we believe that is why he was working at the car wash.”

Immigration officer Gregory Williams told the court that Dawood was never going to be arrested. “Had Mustafa not run away, and spoke to us, he would have found out he was not allowed to work in the UK, and we would have told him to go home as he is not allowed to work, and a fine would have been issued to the owner of the car wash.”

The Independent Office for Police Conduct, which is investigating what happened at the carwash, said it had made several recommendations in connection with enforcement visits, adding that officers should have support and direction while squad cars should have first-aid kits, ITV News reported.

For Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, who represented Dawood’s family, the Home Office needs to urgently review its policies and practices following the tragic incident. The lawyers said it is a matter of “national shame” that the Home Office continues to “irresponsibly and dangerously” pursue vulnerable people during enforcement visits, which has devastating consequences.

A Home Office spokesperson said they have made a number of improvements to their practices following the incident but will carefully consider the findings from the inquest and any further recommendations by the coroner to see what lessons can be learned.

Dawood’s mother today is devastated and shocked. She knows that no matter what she does, her son will not come back to life. She however prays that this tragic incident will not happen to other families.

“I never want this to happen to any other family, to have their child taken away. I and my family pray that Mustafa is in paradise,” she said.

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