Heartbreaking letter reveals the cost of a rejected asylum application

Curators installing a London exhibition about migrants found a chilling message written on the back of a portrait of a Kurdish grandfather.

It revealed that the man - Hajy Khalil - had been shot dead in Iraq three years after he was denied asylum in the UK.

The inscription, written by the Kurdish artist Behjat Omer Abdulla, read:

Hajy Khalil was killed by a gunman on 12 February 2013 in Baghdad on his way home. He was refused for his asylum application in the UK. He went to Sweden and was deported from Sweden to Iraq.

Abdulla said that the message was “a kind of signature”, and he was glad the curators of the Southbank exhibition “Adopting Britain: 70 Years of Migration”, had found it.

Mr Khalil’s story was “tragic” he said, and the portrait was born of an earlier tragedy. Just days after he was deported to Iraq in 2010, Mr Khalil’s three grandchildren were killed by a car bomb.

A portrait of Hajy Khalil by Behjat Omer Abdulla, part of his "In Limbo" series

“I had met him in Stoke and he was a beautiful person, a really nice guy,” Abdulla said.

“When I heard about his grandchildren I really wanted to do something, to do his portrait. I sent it to him and he was really happy with it.”

Three years later, Mr Khalil was shot in the head by a gunman on a motorbike. Both the identity of the killer and the motive for the crime remain unknown.

When I heard about his death I was completely shocked. At the same time it shows how sometimes the immigration office cannot find out the true story of people’s lives. I was really sad about it.

Abdulla does not blame immigration officials for Mr Khalil’s death, however, adding that it is “very difficult to make a decision about someone’s life” after just a few hours in an interview room.

“It’s not their fault; it’s something to do with the system. There needs to be a more suitable law.”

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