In general, I support asylum seekers. The vast majority flee under difficult conditions to seek sanctuary from state prosecution, of course you get some trying their luck. Criminals wanting to escape charges, who flee not persecution but prosecution, who use their power and connections to subvert the asylum process, getting fast tracked to escape responsibility for their crimes do exist, but they are tiny minority, vilified in the national press. And when found out, used as a stick to beat claimants with.
Most asylum seekers face a long and arduous process, filled with legal bureaucracy, endless waiting and arbitrary decisionmaking while the threat of destitution overhangs them. I once met a woman, with machete scars all over her back, displaying visible trauma to anyone who spoke to her for more than five minutes, who was turned down for interim support funding while she pursued her claim leaving her destitute and dependent on charity on the streets of Glasgow.
Many of the women who seek asylum are victims of gender based violence. Rape is used both as a tactic of war and a form of state torture for political dissidents, yet the UK has negotiated an opt out for the EU directive on gender based violence as a basis on which to claim asylum, leaving persecuted women vulnerable to being shipped back off to the country in which they were tortured and abused, listed on the flight details so that they can be picked up straight off the plane for more.
It is thus shocking that a rapist would use international legislation designed to protect the vulnerable to avoid prosecution for a crime which even his lawyer’s defence is threadbare, admitting that he “… ripped her clothes and at one point ripped her necklace” , but claiming that as sex without a condom is not illegal under English law, he should not be extradited to a country where it is, while describing sex with a sleeping woman, who by definition is unable to give consent, as “an entirely consensual affair“.
As the Swedish prosecutor has no power to issue a European Arrest Warrent, he is merely wanted for questioning, but the prosecutor has made it clear that she would expect him to stand trial if extradited. His argument rests on the basis that if he were extradited to Sweden, he would then be at risk of extradition to the US, the argument is so absurd as to be laughable. For a start, the case of Gary McKinnon indicates that the UK can and does extradite those wanted in the US, but no arrest warrent for Assange has been issued from the US, only from Sweden. Were such a warrent to be produced, the UK authorities would have to decide between competing claims.
The level of hysteria surrounding the prospect of Assange being extradited on rape charges to Sweden is only matched by the level of adoration that he appears to garner from his legions of sycophantic followers. “Sweden is the Saudi Arabia of feminism” cries Assange, “…a hornets nest of revolutionary feminism”. While Wikileaks promotes a book which lauds the dreadful legal situation prevalent in that country in the 60s, when it legalised child porn and fined rapists, as a bastion of free love.
He has now claimed asylum in Ecuador. A country which seventeen countries have submitted reports on the lack of press censorship and journalistic freedom. A country which, like both the UK and Sweden, has an extradition treaty with the US. It is of course also a country which is led by Rafael Correa, who Assange interviewed last month for Russia Today – mere coincidence, I am sure. There is now a bizarre situation is that here we have an Australian national, seeking asylum from the UK on the basis that they wish to extradite him to Sweden because they may possibly then extradite him to the US in the Ecuador embassy which may then be forced to surrender him to UK authorities on exit under international law.
Glasgow asylum seekers gathered in George Square on Saturday to demand rights and respect. Although I have spoken with only a tiny minority of them, I guarantee that not a single one of them had been fast-tracked through the asylum process by walking into their local embassy of their country of choice, snuggling down in one of the diplomatic armchairs and smiling sweetly at the officials.
It would seem that the rapists have free reign with asylum laws, as rape victims are imprisoned, deported and returned for torture.