How dropping cigarette butt left asylum seeker with risk of deportation

Asylum claim of Syrian man who fled war-torn country put in jeopardy after receiving 80 fine by London council for littering

The safety of a Syrian asylum seeker who fled his war-torn country was put at risk after he fell a cigarette butt on a London street.

The asylum claim of the 27 -year-old man is under consideration by the Home Office. The PS80 fine he was given for dropping the cigarette butt was more than the money he is given to support himself for 2 week by the Home Office.

Because he could not afford it and his position in the UK was in jeopardy, a third party has paid the fine.

In 2012, the asylum seeker fled Daraa in Syria, where he had been working as a cook in a restaurant. Anti-government protests in Daraa are said to have triggered the beginning of the Syrian insurgency in 2011. Both his mothers were killed in the conflict.

After escaping from Syria, he embarked on a dangerous journey through Jordan, Egypt, Libya, sailed on a dinghy to Italy, then travelled to France, ultimately reaching the UK last year and claiming asylum. He is in Home office accommodation in east London and is given PS36. 95 per week to live on. Asylum seekers are not allowed to work.

The man thought he was safe when he arrived at the UK- but when he fell the cigarette butt outside North Acton station on 27 October he unwittingly jeopardised his asylum claim.

As soon as he stubbed out his cigarette he was approached by an officer from private security company Kingdom Security and issued with an on-the-spot PS80 fixed penalty notice( FPN) from Ealing council.

He speaks only a few terms of English and was bewildered by the fine as he had no notion he had committed an offence. He was distraught as he had no means of paying it within the 14 -day deadline.

” Even if I starved for 2 week and used all the money I get from the Home office for food to pay this fine I would still be PS6. 10 short of paying it off ,” he said, speaking before the fine was paid.

Non-payment of these penalties would lead to a prosecution in the magistrates court, which if successful leads to a larger fine, pay of Ealing council’s costs and a criminal record, which could jeopardise his right to sanctuary in the UK. Ealing council says it has not lost a single prosecution for non-payment of these fines since they were introduced in September 2015.

” I have suffered so much since I fled Syria ,” the asylum seeker said.” My mothers were killed in the war and I had a difficult journey. When I reached Calais I tried to jump on a lorry to get to the UK and was severely beaten up by the French police. I received serious injuries to my knee from the beatings and had surgery on it a few months ago. I can’t believe that after everything I’ve been through that my security could be put at risk by dropping a cigarette butt in the street. Dropping cigarette butts is not a crime in Syria .”

Kingdom Security has contracts with 28 local authorities to monitor littering. In May, BBC’s Panorama used an undercover reporter to reveal some of the tactics used by the company’s anti-litter officers.

The Kingdom Security contract with Ealing began in September 2015, with 70% of each PS80 fine issued going to Kingdom.

Eight Kingdom officers patrol the borough and the on-the-spot fine strategy has generated PS300, 000 for the council since 2015. The council cancelled a fine be given to a woman who poured coffee down a drain and then put the cup in the bin and another woman who was fined for flytipping after putting out her recycling next to her wheelie bin.

Kingdom confirmed to Panorama that officials are paid a” competency allowance” on top of their basic hourly wage. They declined to comment about the fine issued to the Syrian asylum seeker.

An Ealing council spokesman said 17,222 FPNs have been issued since September 2016, 15,101 for dropping cigarette butts. He added that of 998 complaints received about the anti-littering fines 187 were upheld and 811 were rejected and that all prosecutions brought for non-payment of fines had succeeded.

” Officers all have body-worn cameras to record interaction with offenders after they have littered. We do not record how much litter is already on the ground or the offence. The policeman statement is the primary evidence in court and video footage can be used as supplementary proof in court ,” he said.

” There is no reporting obligation for the council to put signs in the borough .”

The council did not respond directly to a question about whether the borough’s streets were cleaner following the partnership with Kingdom Security. A spokesman said:” Significant reductions have been stimulated in the council’s street cleansing budget. Litter enforcement, along with other initiatives have ensured that there has been minimal impact on the standards of local streets( according to independent evaluation ).”

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