'I can't help Matt', says Home Secretary

HOME Secretary Charles Clarke has today vowed to monitor the plight of much-loved Ipswich asylum seeker Matt Rahmati but said his hands are tied.The Evening Star took Matt's case, which has prompted massive support from the people of Suffolk, to Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

HOME Secretary Charles Clarke has today vowed to monitor the plight of much-loved Ipswich asylum seeker Matt Rahmati but said his hands are tied.

The Evening Star took Matt's case, which has prompted massive support from the people of Suffolk, to Home Secretary Charles Clarke.

He has now promised to take an interest in the case - but was unable to offer direct support because he is unable to comment or intervene in individual cases.

But he did say that Matt's case showed that the British people were not inherently racist or opposed to refugees - they just wanted to see a fair system for those who are genuinely at risk in their home countries.

And while there are cases like Matt's around the country, Mr Clarke is also having to deal with calls to tighten asylum application rules following the case of Kamel Bourgass, the failed asylum-seeker who was this week convicted of terrorism charges and murdering a police officer.

He said identity cards would have helped keep tracks of Bourgass after his asylum application failed - and these had been opposed by the other parties.

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"This terrorist used multiple identities to evade capture and prosecution.

"The police and security services say that ID cards will be a vital tool in the fight against terrorism. We agree with them.

"ID cards would be law now if the Conservatives hadn't blocked them last week, after nearly three years of discussion in Parliament."

The Home Secretary said he had been made aware of Mr Rahmati's case by Chris Mole, who is defending the Ipswich seat.

"I know Chris has spoken at length to (immigration minister) Des Browne about this at some length.

"And I have no doubt he will continue to press the case if he is re-elected to Westminster on May 5," he said.

Mr Clarke was heartened by the public reaction to Matt's case.

"There is undoubtedly some concern about the issue but when people see refugees making a new life for themselves in this country and contributing then they wish them well," he said.

"They do want a fair an efficient asylum system and that is what we are working towards."

Mr Rahmati echoed Mr Clarke's sentiments, having received enormous public support at first hand. He is now awaiting a decision from the Home Office to his last-ditch appeal to stay in the country.

He said: "I quite agree with Mr Clarke regarding that. I am proud of the support people have given me.

"There's a possibility they (immigration officials) could refuse my application at any time, but I still have a little hope."

Meanwhile, Mr Clarke said great improvements had been made in dealing with asylum applications recently.

"We are now dealing with asylum applications a lot faster and people are left knowing where they stand a lot quicker."

"We are now dealing with 80 per cent of asylum applications within two months. When we came into power in 1997 the average length of time taken processing applications was 20 months.

"These improvements cannot happen overnight, but we are making progress," he said.

If you want to voice your support for Mr Rahmati send your letter to Your Letters, Evening Star , 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk. Alternatively write directly to H&F Autos, 170-172 St Helen's Street, Ipswich, IP4 2LH.

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