Britain bars all Nigerian refugees

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The Independent Online
ALL 2000 Nigerians who sought asylum in Britain last year had their applications rejected by the Home Office. The effective ban on Nigerian refugees stayed even after Nigeria's military dictatorship sparked worldwide disgust by executing Ken Saro-Wiwa, the human rights activist.

A sustained critique of Michael Howard's claims that Britain is being overrun by "bogus" asylum seekers, to be published tomorrow, shows that the treatment of Nigerians was not an isolated example.

Asylum-seekers from country after country with histories of oppression were turned away by Britain.

The report by the Refugee Council, the leading body promoting asylum- seekers' rights, found that all Rwandans whose cases were heard in 1995 had their claims for refugee status rejected and 91 per cent of Sri Lankans were told they were not welcome.

The anti-Nigerian policy did not change after Mr Saro-Wiwa's death in November. Of the 720 asylum seekers whose cases were decided after the execution, all were refused refugee status and just two were allowed to stay in Britain provisionally.

The Council's 70-page examination of the "myth" of bogus refugees is to be sent to peers who will next month debate Mr Howard's Asylum Bill, which aims to make it even harder to find sanctuary in Britain.

Nick Hardwick, the Council's chief executive, attacked both the Home Secretary and conservative newspapers for pretending refugees were simply greedy immigrants looking for hand-outs.

"The UK is anything but a soft touch for asylum seekers," said Hardwick. "They are welcomed not with a humanitarian response but with suspicion and a presumption of guilt."