Sushil Sraman helping raise awareness of asylum seekers, Sharrow Festival 2013Sushilananda Sraman, known to his friends as Sushil, has been detained at Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre, Lincoln and is due to be deported tomorrow (Thursday 28 August).
Sushil, aged 46, arrived in the UK in 2005 and has been living in Gleadless Valley, Sheffield, since 2011.
As a Buddhist monk in Chittagong Bangladesh, Sushil says he was targeted by local fundamentalist muslims, who forbade him to campaign for girls' education and began persecuting him.
Sushil, who spoke to me from inside Morton Hall, said that since 1992 he has been campaigning for girls' education and trying to encourage families to send their daughters to school.
Sushil volunteering at multi-agency drop-in in Sheffield. Left: Green Party Leader Natalie BennettAs a monk, Sushil undertook multi-faith social work and provided education for girls and boys of all religions. He said he ended up becoming a community leader as he gained support from his community in the face of persecution from fundamentalists.
Supporters claim that, after Sushil campaigned against an alleged war criminal at local elections in 1996, there was an escalation in the harassment against himself and his community. He was accused of the murder of a local fundamentalist and was convicted and sentenced in absentia.
Sushil said that he was tortured and beaten by the fundamentalist group Jamaat-e-Islam:
"They harassed me and tortured me, I still have scars on my legs from when they beat me. They broke my jaw with a shovel and did so many terrible things that I don’t even want to remember. They burnt my house down and the houses of villagers nearby."
Sushil says he was targeted by fundamentalists between 1992 and 2004 when he was advised by his devotees to flee for safety to the UK.
‘My life is in danger’
Morton Hall, run by the Prison ServiceCampaigners say that Sushil’s claim for asylum in the UK reached the European Court of Human Rights last year, but the UK government offered to settle it domestically. The Home Office then refused Sushil’s claim and appeals and placed him in detention. He has a removal flight booked for Thursday 28th August back to Bangladesh, where he fears for his life.
Sushil said that he doesn’t even know if his mother, sister and relatives in Bangladesh are safe and that he fears the strength of Jamaat-e-Islam:
"I gave all the evidence to the Home Office, but they do not believe me and they have disclosed all my information to the Bangladeshi authorities, so I fear for my safety. My life is in danger, my life is not safe, if the government doesn’t imprison me, the fundamentalist muslims will kill me."
Campaigners say that they believe political intervention may be the only way to keep Sushil in the UK and they are urging everyone to sign their petition to the Home Secretary Theresa May.
Ian Nesbitt, who volunteers with Sushil said:
"Sushil is a key member of Sheffield’s community and it is totally wrong that he is facing deportation from the place he now calls home, to a country where his life could be in danger. We call on the Home Secretary to stop this deportation and look very closely at Sushil’s case and note the contribution he makes to life in his home, Sheffield."
Gina Clayton, chair of ASSIST Sheffield, a charity who have been supporting Sushil since he arrived in Sheffield in 2004, said:
"Sushil is caught in a situation where complex legal rules make it hard for him to prove his case, but people who know him are confident his fears are well-founded. If they are right, his situation will be terrible."
You can find out more about Sushil and the campaign on the Save Sushilanada Sraman facebook page.
The article was first published today on SheffieldUnchained. Pictures c/o City of Sanctuary.