Deportation 'could kill refugee'

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THE Home Office will today send a refugee who has been left weak and emaciated by a six- week hunger strike back to Algeria in an air ambulance.

Djemal Flissa, a 29-year-old tax inspector, fled to Britain claiming he was on the death list of Islamic fundamentalists. Lawyers and human rights campaigners say the flight home could kill him.

They claim the Home Office was desperate to prevent Flissa starving himself to death, as it would undermine ministers' argument that thousands of asylum-seekers refused sanctuary in the UK are mostly economic migrants only interested in higher wages and benefits.

A doctor from the Medical Foundation for the Care of the Victims of Torture examined Mr Flissa yesterday at the Rochester detention centre in Kent.

He found that after 44 days of his hunger strike in protest against the decision to deport him, the Algerian was thin, extremely weak and unable to sit up in bed. His weight had fallen from 10st to just over 7st.

Helen Bamber, the foundation's director, said: "What I find quite sickening about this case is that the Home Office is prepared to charter a plane to dump this man in Algeria just so they won't have the embarrassment of him dying here."

Islamic militants fighting to overthrow the Algerian regime have targeted state employees.

Alison Stanley, Mr Flissa's solicitor, said tax inspectors were in particular danger in Algeria because the fundamentalists claim taxation goes against Islamic principles. Mr Flissa saw one of his colleagues shot. When he was warned his own life was in danger, he came to Britain.

"The Home Office is flying him out because it does not want a death on its hands here," said Ms Stanley. "But he is so weak he may die on the way back."

A Home Office spokeswoman said that Mr Flissa had exhausted all avenues of appeal. Home Office doctors said it was safe for him to fly, she said.

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