Belfast Telegraph

'I told the Home Office I was going to set myself on fire... but the all they did was call the police'

By Lyra McKee

The Algerian asylum seeker who tried to set himself on fire outside Belfast City Hall in protest against his treatment has claimed he told a Home Office official what he was going to do two days beforehand.

Faycal Daoud said that during a meeting with an official at Drumkeen House in Belfast, he told a member of staff of his plan.

"I told them, 'I am dying slowly'," he said, adding that police were called to the scene and "followed him" for a short period of time afterwards.

The PSNI issued a statement to the Belfast Telegraph confirming Mr Daoud's story, saying they were called twice to premises in the Upper Galwally area of Castlereagh in response to reports of concern for a man's safety. No offences were disclosed, the force said, and they monitored him briefly to "ensure his safety".

Mr Daoud claimed that other than calling the police, no follow-ups were made by the Home Office or other local authorities until the incident at Belfast City Hall in April last year, after which he was detained under the Mental Health Act.

When contacted by telephone and asked about Mr Daoud's allegations, a Home Office official in London snapped, "What were we supposed to do?", before demanding to see a copy of Mr Daoud's quotes.

Self-immolation is a common form of political protest in the Middle East, Asia and Africa.

The Arab Spring revolts began when Tunisian street vendor Mohamed Bouazizi set himself alight outside his town's municipal headquarters after a dispute with local authorities.

"Daoud's case highlights that there needs to be greater communication between the statutory agencies meant to support asylum seekers," a source who works with refugees said.

"If a native Northern Irish person had stated their intent to set fire to themselves, would you have allowed them to do it? This is clearly an equality issue where asylum seekers, refugees and ethnic minorities in general are being treated completely differently. There is no community rallying around Mr Daoud - there's no support for him."

The source added that cuts made to community organisations were having a negative impact.

Amnesty International NI's Patrick Corrigan criticised the Home Office for its treatment of asylum seekers.

"Mr Daoud's case highlights the desperate plight facing destitute asylum seekers in Northern Ireland", he said.

"We need a humane asylum system, not one where the Home Office turns a deaf ear to cries for help.

"All refugees and migrants should be treated with the dignity and respect to which everyone is entitled. Instead, the response of the Home Office has increasingly been to unravel what minimal support the State has historically provided for asylum seekers.

"People in dire straits, such as Mr Daoud, should not be left to sleep on the streets or rely on charity. The Home Office must provide asylum seekers, who would otherwise be destitute, with sufficient support so that they can meet their essential living needs until they are returned to their country of origin or are given permission to stay in the UK."

The Home Office has yet to formally respond to the Belfast Telegraph's request for comment.

Belfast Telegraph


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