Saturday, April 14, 2007

Deported Armenian journalist lands in Malta

13 April 2007
Malta Star
By Kurt Farrugia & david vella

The Armenian journalist who lived in England for five years as an asylum seeker, was deported on Friday morning, and landed in Malta with her family, where she will remain held at the airport until she boards a plane to Armenia via Russia, early on Saturday morning.

Gina Khachatryan, 30, arrived in Malta on Thursday at 1505hrs on Air Malta flight KM101, accompanied by four Maltese plain clothes police officers. Gina had fled her homeland in September 2003, when her family started facing threats and persecution for reporting a case of corruption in the country’s elections. “ On September 11, 2003, Gina, her husband Vahan Boyakhchyan, and their baby daughter Elen, landed in Malta, where they spent 10 days before flying to the UK to seek asylum as political refugees.

But the British authorities never accepted the family’s asylum application. In June 2006, Gina’s request was turned down by the UK’s High Court, and a “removal order” was issued, sources close to the British Home Office told maltastar.com on Friday. The original date for the deportation was February 2007, but it was delayed to Friday 13 April.

Last Monday, police closed off the street where Gina lived in Salford, and ordered her family to pack up in 30 minutes. She was then taken to Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedford until she was taken to Heathrow airport during the night between Thursday and Friday.

Maltese police to escort Gina to Russia

As she arrived in Malta, maltastar.com contacted Gina, who explained that the Maltese police officers during the flight were very kind to her family. “I don’t know exactly where they’re keeping us, but now they’re taking us to eat”, Gina said during a brief telephone conversation. The Maltese authorities will accompany the Armenian family to Moscow on an Air Malta flight that leaves Malta at 0200hrs Saturday morning.

maltastar.com is informed that in the afternoon, a Maltese lawyer, whose name is yet undisclosed, offered to help Gina and her family. “The only way that Gina can avoid going back to her country is to send an urgent appeal to the European Court of Human Rights. If Gina accepts to nominate a lawyer to send such a request, the chances are that her family will be stopping in Malta, at least until the European Courts issue a definitive decision” sources told maltastar.com. Another option is that Gina and her family apply for asylum in Malta. Yet, the Office of the Commissioner of Refugees did not receive any application from the family by late on Friday afternoon. Late on Friday evening, this e-newspaper was informed that Gina decided to proceed on her way to Armenia.

During the last 48 hours, a number of human rights groups in the UK, and journalists’ associations in the UK and Malta, as well as a number of Gina’s friends, were trying to find a way of stopping the deportation. Professor Mike Jempsen, Director of the MediaWise Trust, said that Gina is worried about what might happen if she is returned to Armenia, where election campaigning has started again. “I don’t know what might happen. I may not be killed, but I will end up in prison definitely because I told another country about what is happening in Armenia. I am afraid because they will be waiting for me at the airport. The questioning will start right away. Why did I run away? Why did I claim political asylum? I am scared for my child” Gina told the organisation before she left the UK detention centre.

Maltese minister asked to intervene

maltastar.com journalists have been in constant contact with representatives of British human rights groups, in order to try and find ways to help the Armenian journalist. The Malta Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) was also working on the case throughout the day. maltastar.com, which started following Gina’s case on Thursday, also kept international journalists’ association Reporters Without Borders (RSF) posted.

In Malta, Karl Schembri, President of the Journalists’ Committee, wrote to the Foreign Affairs Minister and the Prime Minister, asking them to ensure that Gina’s family will not be persecuted once she returns to Armenia. The Journalists’ Committee also informed the International Federation of Journalists, and the Maltese Commissioner for Refugees.

“From our perspective, Ms. Khachatryan was given adequate opportunity to present her asylum claims in a fair and effective manner in the United Kingdom, including a reconsideration and high court review of her case” said Dr Neil Falzon, Head of Office of the UNHCR Malta told maltastar.com, “In all instances, Ms. Khachatryan's asylum claims were rejected and UNHCR has no reason to doubt these conclusions. Whilst this means UNHCR will not get involved in her case, it does not preclude her from attempting to access other legal channels”.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

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1 Comments:

Anonymous Uzogh said...

It appears, that Gina was not a journalist, and was not taken to jail for 40 days.....
More info here: http://blogs.guardian.co.uk/greenslade/2007/04/mystery_of_the_deported_armeni.html

6:06 AM  

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