Depressed asylum seeker kills himself

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The Independent Online
AN INQUIRY has been launched after a Chinese asylum seeker was found deadwhile under special observation at a psychiatric hospital.

Lin Yan-Guang, 35, was discovered in his room by staff at Warley Hospital in Brentwood, Essex. It was revealed yesterday that Mr Yan-Guang's family had borrowed up to pounds 20,000 to send him to Britain. He had been in Britain a year, but depressed and unable to findwork, he was admitted to Warley where he was assessed and put under special observation.

"He was desperate. He kept holding on to me and crying," said Sophia Jones, a friend who visited him in hospital two days before he died. "He wanted to go home but he knew he couldn't, because his family had borrowed all this money to send him here. He knew he had to try and pay it back."

Barking, Havering and Brentwood Hospital Community NHS Trust, responsible for Warley Hospital said Mr Yan Guang had been admitted in September. "An inquiry is now underway," said a spokeswoman. An inquest has also been opened and adjourned.

Mr Yan-Guang was one of a growing number of Chinese citizens who are seeking asylum in Britain. In 1992 there were just 330 applications from Chinese nationals, while in the first 10 months of this year there were 1,310. Last year only 25 such requests for asylum were granted.

Even solicitors working on behalf of many of these cases admit the chances of them obtaining asylum are slim. Most of the cases arriving in Britain do not meet the requirements laid down by the immigration authorities, yet hundreds of Chinese citizens continue to arrive - at times this year there were up to 30 arrivals a week.

There is growing evidence that many asylum seekers are paying up to pounds 20,000 to criminals, known as "snakeheads", who promise to get them into the West, via "snakeroutes" through Moscow or Bangkok.

Police believe most of the recent asylum-seekers come from two Chinese towns in the eastern province of Fujian. According to a recent report compiled by the Chinatown Liaison Unit of the Metropolitan Police, some of the Fujianese immigrants have formed their own gangs, which have clashed with the already established Triads.

"When these people get on the plane or bus or whatever they usually don't know where they are going. It might be London, it might be New York," said a police source. "Before they arrive they destroy all their documents, so we cannot prove they are Chinese."

Another problem is the growing incidence of kidnappings of asylum-seekers by rival snakeheads who then phone up their families in China to demand ransoms.

"There seem to be reports of such incidents every couple of months," said Wah-Piow Tan, a solicitor who works with Chinese asylum seekers.

In the most recent incident of alleged kidnapping, five men are said to have held three victims hostage for up to a week before they were rescued by police. Five people are due to appear before Bow Street Magistrates today, charged with false imprisonment.

Meanwhile Mr Yan-Guang's family in China are trying to raise more money - this time so that his younger brother can come to Britain to collect his cremated remains.