Deportation reprieve for stowaway

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The Independent Online
The Government agreed last night to look again at the case of an Indian stowaway denied political asylum after surviving 10 hours in the frozen undercarriage of a jumbo jet. Pardeep Saini, 23, emerged from the wheelbay of a British Airways Boeing 747 following his incredible journey from Delhi last October, but his 19-year-old brother Vijay froze to death in the -60C temperatures.

Relatives in Britain reacted with disappointment and anger yesterday after an immigration adjudicator notified them that there was insufficient evidence to support a claim that Mr Saini, a Sikh, faced persecution in the Punjab because of allegations that he had links with Sikh extremists.

But in response to calls for Mr Saini to be allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds, Mike O'Brien, the immigration minister, said last night: "I will look carefully at the comments of the adjudicator and any compassionate circumstances in this case. The death of Mr Saini's brother was certainly tragic, but I will be reluctant to reward someone for using extreme methods to evade the immigration controls. The adjudicator has confirmed that Mr Saini does not qualify for asylum. Consideration must therefore be given to his removal, although we will consider any medical and other reports which are forwarded to the Home Office."

Mr Saini's uncle, Tarsem Singh Bola, who lives in Southall, west London, said his nephew was still receiving treatment for psychological trauma. "He has four uncles and many cousins here and we would have looked after him properly."

Mr Bola sought a meeting yesterday with Southall Labour MP Piara Khabra, who has campaigned for Mr Saini to be allowed to stay on humanitarian grounds. Mr Khabra said yesterday: "I am disappointed with the decision of the Home Secretary, but I am more interested in the humanitarian side of the case. He has lost his brother. He nearly died himself. His father recently died. I will be making representations to the Home Secretary to allow him exceptional leave to stay on compassionate grounds."

The adjudicator, Kate Eschen, ruled that the asylum application failed because answers in an interview with immigration officers shortly after Mr Saini stumbled onto the tarmac at Heathrow conflicted with later statements.

His lawyers told the hearing that Mr Saini and his brother had fled after police beat them and Mr Saini was still dazed and confused at the time of the initial interview. Medical experts have suggested that he could have gone into a form of suspended animation because of the extreme cold.

The family's lawyers are planning to apply for leave to appeal to the Immigration Appeal Tribunal.

Claude Moraes, director of the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "It is my opinion he should have been allowed to remain, given his ordeal and the fact that he had a prima facie and reasonably strong case for asylum ... It was such an exceptional case that it would not have been repeated."

Vijay's body fell from the aircraft as the undercarriage was lowered and was found at a disused gasworks in Richmond, south-west London.

Patricia Wynn Davies

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