Army veteran who served five years in Iraq faces deportation

In early March, Joram Nechironga was put on a bus from Colnbrook Immigration Removal Center in west London to Heathrow Airport.

The father-of-two, who served in the British army on the frontline of the Iraq war from 2002 to 2007, was about to be forced to board a plane bound for Zimbabwe, the country where he was born. He left for Britain in 2001 and the last time he visited Zimbabwe, in 2006, he was tortured as a suspected British spy because of his military ID card.

Only last-minute interventions by her lawyer and Zarah Sultana, the Labor MP for Coventry South who raised her constituent’s case in parliament, prevented her deportation. “It was scary for me because I didn’t expect treatment like this with my PTSD [post-traumatic stress disorder] and the way they wanted to deport me,” said Nechironga, 42.

“It was a very anxious and very stressful time for him,” said Andrew Nyamayaro, Nechironga’s lawyer. “The Minister had promised the MP that he would not be expelled.” On February 28, Sultana had raised Nechironga’s case with Home Secretary Tom Pursglove and was assured by the Home Office later that day that his deportation had been postponed, only for him to put on the bus two days later because of an “error”. ”.

Nechironga is at risk of being deported from the UK as a ‘foreign offender’. He was convicted of the offenses of drunk driving and assaulting a family member for which he served two years in prison until 2019.

He and his attorneys argue that those offenses were the result of untreated PTSD that developed while he was in the military. He has been rebuilding his life since his release from prison.

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“I suffered from flashbacks, depression, nightmares, insomnia, night sweats, palpitations and fits of rage. I developped [a] alcohol problem as a coping mechanism for my PTSD,” Nechironga said.

Jeff Harrison, head of veteran mental health charity Combat Stress, said: “While most servicemen have successful careers and transition to civilian life, some may develop military-related trauma. which can have a devastating impact on their lives.” The criminal justice system, he said, should take this “into consideration.”

Since his release, Nechironga, who lives in the suburb of Hillfields northeast of Coventry, has worked as a labourer, painter and decorator. He was focusing on his recovery and paying for the maintenance of his two children, who also live in town.

Photo courtesy of Joram Nechironga

Nechironga says that on February 17 he was taken without notice to Colnbrook for deportation. Following the Eleventh Hour’s decision not to deport him, and with the help of his lawyers, he was released on bail on March 10.

This does not end the threat of deportation, however, and Nechironga told the new statesman he is also restricted from daily activities. “I have been given reporting conditions weekly at Solihull and told that I cannot work, cannot study or apply for benefits and am under 24 hour surveillance,” said he declared.

Having to travel to Solihull every week is stressing his finances, especially now that he has been told he is not allowed to work, and being stuck at home for more long periods made his flashbacks more frequent. “I was able to pay my bills and try to improve my life after my prison sentence,” he said. “I was busy managing my PTSD, looking for help to pay for my own medication each month. Now I don’t work and I have to pay for my treatment and medication. Now I have bills to pay, I have gas and electricity to pay and I don’t know how I’m going to bear it all.

Nechironga added that he did not want to be a “burden” on his family in the UK. “At this time, I am begging immigration to allow me to work so that I can get my bills and medical bills under control.”

Nyamayaro, his lawyer, is still fighting the deportation order, which remains in place. He added that he was looking for expert psychiatric evidence to help prove that untreated PSTD was behind Nechironga’s criminal offences.

He is also concerned about the lack of proper support at Colnbrook for Nechironga’s mental health, as he had received counseling before he was detained. “In the detention center he was not getting much, if anything at all,” he said.

For Nechironga to stay in the UK, he would need a residence permit or visa. As long as the deportation order is there, the Home Office could detain and deport him at any time.

“People who call the UK home and have actually served in our armed forces should not face exile to a country they hardly know – especially to a country where their lives could be put at risk. danger,” said Minnie Rahman, campaigns director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. “The fact that he has a criminal record is irrelevant – he has served his sentence and deportation is a cruel double jeopardy.”

Sultana said: “The treatment of Joram by the Home Office has been shocking. Not only are they trying to deport someone whose whole life is here in Britain and who was scarred while serving in our armed forces, they even almost deported him by ‘mistake’ – exacerbating his PTSD.

“Deporting him to Zimbabwe would not only tear him away from his friends and family, it would also put him at risk of being tortured. Instead of just whipping the divisive as usual, for once Priti Patel and the Home Office should do the decent thing and overturn this deportation.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘The government makes no apologies for deporting murderers, rapists and child molesters and those who have no legal right to be in the UK . Since January 2019, we have deported over 10,017 foreign criminals. »

The spokesperson said all claims had been ‘fully considered and decided prior to removal’, adding: ‘The new immigration plan will fix the broken immigration system and end the abuses we see by speeding up removal foreign offenders and those who have no right to be here.

Nechironga now lives with the impact of her detention experience in addition to her PTSD. “I feel desperate every time I hear a knock on my door; I just feel weak because of the way they came to get me,” he said. “Now I can’t sleep.”

He is still seeking help for his mental health, which has deteriorated significantly, and he now has suicidal thoughts. “I contacted my doctor weekly for help with my mental health,” he said. “I made mistakes and asked for help, but I haven’t received any help from the NHS for my mental health. Now I am in pain because of the service I have given to the country that I love so much.

In the UK and Ireland, the Samaritans can be contacted on 116 123 or by email at [email protected] or [email protected] International helplines can be found at www.befrienders.org.

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