Howard 'acted unlawfully' on asylum plea

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The Independent Online
The Home Secretary, Michael Howard, was accused in the High Court yesterday of acting "unreasonably and unlawfully" when he blocked a fresh application for political asylum made by the teenage son of a Nigerian pro-democracy activist who has not been heard of since being deported.

Twenty-year-old student Ade Onibiyo - also associated with the opposition movement to the military regime in Nigeria - now faced deportation himself and was "in fear of his life", a judge was told.

Nicholas Blake QC, appearing for Mr Onibiyo, who is being held at Campsfield Detention Centre in Oxfordshire, pending removal, said the Government planned to send him back to Nigeria, even though it was not known whether his father, Abdul, 53, flown to Lagos under escort last October, was safe.

There was also fresh "voluminous" evidence of the willingness of the regime to use severe repression against its opponents, including the recent execution of dissident writer Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other minority rights activists.

Mr Onibiyo was among the first Nigerian asylum seekers threatened with deportation since the executions, and he had been further endangered because of the wide publicity given to his case.

The Nigerian authorities had become more sensitive about their international standing and reputation since the Saro-Wiwa affair, and it might have made them more willing to suppress internal opposition

Mr Blake was asking the court to overturn the Home Secretary's refusal last December not to treat new evidence on what had recently occurred in Nigeria as providing the basis for a fresh application for asylum, carrying with it the right of appeal if unsuccessful.

The family's troubles began when Mr Onibiyo senior, who had lived in Britain since 1964 and owned the family house in Chelmsford, Essex, fell foul of a rule that immigrants lost their right of abode if they spent more than two years abroad.

After he was absent from Britain between 1977 and 1983, he was told his right of residency had been revoked. He and his son, who first came to the UK at the age of 11, both lost initial appeals last year.

The hearing was adjourned until today.

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