I spent Sunday in the Tricycle Theatre for a day of theatre, film, debates and art about the crisis in Darfur. It was a remarkable day, organised entirely by volunteers from creative industries who wanted to use their talents to raise awareness and take action to stop the tragedy. Impressive stuff.
The genocide in Darfur has caused a refugee crisis of staggering proportions – it has displaced more than 2 ½ million people. 240,000 Darfuri refugees have fled to Chad and around 400,000 refugees have sought protection in Uganda, Kenya, Ethiopia and the Central African Republic. Yet last year only 750 Sudanese asylum seekers made it to the UK and the vast majority of them had their claim refused.
The Aegis Trust has collected evidence that many of the Darfuri asylum seekers who were refused protection in the UK faced torture on their return to Khartoum. To make matters even worse, many Darfuri asylum seekers have been interviewed by Sudanese Embassy Officials in Home Office facilities whilst their claims are being processed. This means that our Government has allowed them to be interviewed and threatened by representatives of the regime that they are fleeing before their asylum claim is even decided. Waging Peace have produced a damning and alarming report about these illegal interviews.
At Labour Party Conference this year, Gordon Brown said in his speech, ‘People will look back on events in Darfur as they did in Rwanda and say why did you the most powerful countries in the world fail to act, to come to the aid of those with the least power?’
Indeed, Mr Brown. Yet his own Government gives inadequate protection to those Darfuris who make it to the UK and ask for protection, putting them in danger here and then sending them back to Khartoum with the help of the government of which they are the victims.