We are organisers of an event in honour of Kamil Ahmad and other disabled asylum seekers and refugees. Some of us knew Kamil, some of us did not know him but have been motivated to attempt to address the root causes of Kamil’s tragic experiences. We would like to respond to the Safeguarding Review for Kamil Ahmad.
We are pleased that the safeguarding review has recognised that Kamil faced ongoing racism, that he was failed by many agencies and that his search for justice was impeded by (perhaps unconscious) disregard for the rights of refused asylum seekers.
However, beyond that we are disappointed by this review and response by the Bristol safeguarding board. This was a chance to expose the catalogue of injustice that Kamil experienced and to provide a sense that action is being taken to address the racism and ableism which Kamil experienced.
We are puzzled by the repeated references to the lack of interpreters as if this were an excuse rather a fundamental failing on the part of the agencies concerned. If a person is reporting a crime and does not speak English, then it is the police responsibility to provide interpreters. We are aware of at least one occasion when Kamil organised his own interpreter but the police officer did not appear and did not ring to rearrange. We are aware that the police have suggested that Kamil’s interpreter cancelled the appointment. We ask for any plausible explanation as to why he would have done this, given that he and Kamil were waiting. We also ask why it was necessary for Kamil to rely on voluntary support of interpreters. We are disappointed in the lack of attention paid to the police failure to turn up, pay for interpreters or to press charges.
The assertion that Kamil did not wish to make a statement to the police in April 2016 does not convince us. Might this apparent ‘misunderstanding’ have been the result of the numerous times when no interpreter was provided or the failure of police to turn up for the appointment when Kamil had arranged his own interpreter?
There could have been deeper investigation into potentially racist attitudes towards Kamil as an asylum seeker by services that should have been providing support – this is implied where it talks about attitudes towards people with “failed” applications but is not explored in any meaningful depth. We ask what prevented the ‘attempts’ to contact Kamil and to warn him about the increased risk posed to him (paragraph 10.11). We assume that action is being taken to prevent this in future.
The report stresses that Kamil is not blamed, yet there is constant referencing to “dynamics” and “tensions” between the two men. This implies that the men were co-protagonists rather than that Kamil was the victim. We suggest that the structures and attitudes of a system that disempowers service users are so ingrained that even now, the report authors are not able to recognise the ways in which Kamil was failed. It appears that as a service user and as a refused asylum seeker, Kamil’s rights to live free from abuse, harassment and fear, were denied. Kamil had a strong sense of justice and because he did not passively submit to having his rights denied, he is referred to as if he were a co-protagonist. References to Kamil’s knife are hugely exaggerated. Given the repeated threats that he was receiving, it seems that the paper knife which he owned is rather minimal self-defence, yet it is referenced as if it were a sign of potential aggression.
We are surprised that agencies did not realise it would be traumatic when Kamil was threatened with eviction, given that this meant he would have been street homeless (paragraph 9.8). We are also puzzled at the manner in which the report refers to voluntary organisations. If Kamil had been evicted from the property, he would have lost his right to support from social services and would have had no support whatsoever, as is deliberate policy for refused asylum seekers.
It is deeply disappointing to see this safeguarding review used as an opportunity to promote the outsourcing of statuary responsibilities to the voluntary and charity sector. It is also It is insulting to the goodwill of volunteers to suggest that they could have taken up where statutory authorities failed. The reason that Kamil had originally been given an Care Act assessment was because of lobbying by the volunteers who had been supporting him. They were unable to support his mental health needs. And it is not their job. It is a misrepresentation, and indeed irresponsible, to suggest that volunteers can supply the level of mental health support that Kamil needed. The decision making, that led to a Disabled man with high support needs being assessed as ineligible for support from the local authority, is barely referred to, let alone questioned. The re-traumatising impact it had on Kamil as a person, and the potential breach of his human rights, is also further indication that the Care Act, and it’s implementation, is failing Disabled people and Disabled asylum seekers.
Frequent reference to Kamil cancelling appointments brings the implication that this was his failing. It should be noted that he never cancelled an appointment with the Trauma Foundation and his interpreter. Those agencies with whom he cancelled appointments need to ask themselves why he did so.
We are concerned at evidence in the report of the impact of the crisis in social care and mental health services, bed shortages and out-sourcing to private hospitals. We are aware that it is not uncommon for people to be sent many miles away from family and friends to private sector hospitals, such as Cygnet, owned by US giant Universal Health Services, and the added stress that this places on their mental health.
The repeated communication failures between the NHS, voluntary and private sector services which also contributed to Kamil’s murder are simply not a matter of ‘learning lessons’ or designing new ‘pathways.’ We believe these are a direct consequence of drastic funding cuts, unaccountable commissioning and the impact of service fragmentation on front-line staff.
We consider it wholly inappropriate that as part of the response from the safeguarding board, there is reference to the need for interpreters, refugees and asylum seekers to be trained. Kamil and his interpreter did all they possibly could have done to seek justice and to alert the authorities as to the danger that he was in. We ask what this training would include – the need to inform the police? Mental health services? Housing provider? All of which Kamil and his interpreter did on multiple occasions. Of course some people may need support in order to be as assertive as Kamil was but it is not him or his interpreter who needed training. Those who need training most urgently are those who did not listen to their pleas for action and those who have, what the report refers to as, ‘unconscious’ bias.
Despite reference to systemic issues, the report still attempts to shift the blame from the agencies to the individual. The report contains 15 references to Kamil and other disabled people as ‘vulnerable’. ALL humans are vulnerable. People become more vulnerable if barriers are faced getting their rights met. Kamil was failed by multiple agencies. He died because insufficient action was taken to prevent someone intent on killing him. This is not a sign of Kamil’s ‘vulnerability’ but of agency failures.
The response from the Bristol Safeguarding Adults Board also refers to their intention to attend the event that we are organising designed to build a broader movement of solidarity. We welcome anybody who would like to play their part in building such a movement, however we stress this event is not designed for ‘professionals’ to share their ideas of best practice.
In other responses to the review, Kamil is referred to as a ‘vulnerable’ or a ‘tragic case’. To different people Kamil was a brother, a cousin, an uncle, a son, a friend. He was a human with rights and needs just like any other human. Those people from agencies who still consider humans as ‘vulnerable cases’ are not only doing an injustice to those people, but you are also missing out. Kamil was a wonderful, intelligent, funny, kind and articulate human being who was failed, and, judging from this review, continues to be failed.
We are aware that Kamil’s family have waited two years for apologies from all those who failed Kamil. We would like to see evidence that the lessons are being learned.