The reality of the government’s asylum system was laid bare on Thursday, as people gathered in the grounds of a hotel on the outskirts of Ipswich to say goodbye to their friend.  

Ahmad, an Iranian asylum seeker who fled his home country in 2022, had been told on Friday, December 29 that he was to be transported to new Serco accommodation the following Thursday, January 4. 

However, he and the members of his church who have been supporting him say that Ahmad was not informed where he was to be taken.  

A Home Office spokesperson said that he should have been given written notice of an address. However, Ahmad, Father John Thackray of St Mary at the Elms and former mayor Councillor Elizabeth Hughes, say that this was never received. 

Ipswich Star: Ahmad was forced to flee Iran for 'promoting Christianity'. Ahmad was forced to flee Iran for 'promoting Christianity'. (Image: Newsquest)

On Thursday morning, as he stood waiting to be collected, a phone call informed Ahmad that he would be taken to Coventry, and he left in an Ipswich taxi a short while later.

This is understood to be the way that Serco transports people between sites as the Government closes down its controversial asylum hotels such as the Novotel.

Ahmad arrived in this country in August of 2022. He was forced to leave, having been successfully prosecuted in Iran and sentenced to 20 years penal servitude for “advertising activities against the regime and promoting Christianity”, in the form of sharing literature. 

Christians in Iran face much persecution, particularly those who convert to the faith. Ahmad said that he himself has known Christians to be sentenced to death because of their religion. 

When Ahmad was housed in Ipswich, first at the Novotel before being moved to another hotel nearby, Ahmad began attending mass regularly and building friendships with fellow church members. 

Having to move to a new place, he said, was a daunting prospect. 

“I know Ipswich, I have some friends here,” he said. “There are so many things I’m going to have to do again for the first time.”  

Father John, Cllr Hughes and another member of their church, Andrew Gray, had all come to the hotel on Thursday morning.  

The process of being moved from hotel accommodation to dispersal accommodation can be seen as a positive step, as it can allow people to regain a sense of independence. Asylum seekers have previously told this newspaper of the toll that being housed in accommodation for year at a time takes on their mental health. 

However, in Ahmad’s case, he and his friends agree that they “could not see the logic” in Ahmad being moved when he had already begun to put down roots in the community. 

“When someone of his background comes here and makes every effort integrate, becomes part of the community, and then is suddenly taken without knowing where they are going, it’s very upsetting,” said Cllr Hughes. 

Ahmad, a former builder and electrician, had recently received a work permit, allowing him to work in certain fields. Father John and Cllr Hughes were also helping him to apply for a course at Suffolk One college. The church was also preparing to crowdfund to provide any assistance that Ahmad needed. 

“The church can look after our own,” said Cllr Hughes. “It’s a shame we’ve not been given the opportunity to do that. 

A spokesperson for the Home Office said that they could not comment on individual cases. Serco have been contacted for comment.