Refugee sent back home to his death

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The Independent Online
The Refugee Council called last night for a freeze on deportations of rejected asylum seekers back to Algeria and a review of all outstanding cases, after a former Algerian policeman was murdered by the authorities there on his return.

The 25-year-old man, who The Independent is not naming because of fears of reprisals against his family, had had his claim for refugee status in the UK refused and was forcibly deported in handcuffs on 27 April. Less than a fortnight later, and following two spells in detention, his body was delivered to his mother for burial.

He was one of a number of former police officers who have fled Algeria in fear for their lives or disgust at torture practised by Algerian security forces.

Mohammed Sekkoum, chairman of the Algerian Refugee Council in London, said he believed the man was arrested by the police and the security services on his arrival in Algiers so that he could be interrogated about his contacts with other Algerians who have fled to London, and that he met his death through being tortured.

The number of Algerians seeking asylum in Britain has risen from 25 in 1990 to more than 4,000 following the outbreak of civil war in 1992. There is a growing body of reports blaming government forces, as well as armed Islamic opposition factions, for atrocities against politicians, journalists, intellectuals and policemen.

Nick Hardwick, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "It is a matter of great shame for his country that someone should be killed in Algeria because we failed to offer sanctuary against persecution."

The case is not the first where returned Algerians have been tortured, "disappeared" or met their deaths. But the fate of the man stands in contrast to that of his brother, another former Algerian police officer, who was granted refugee status in Canada. Their father, also a policeman, was killed last year.

The man's asylum case was doomed when having been granted temporary admission, he changed his address without notifying the Home Office. That meant he never received notification of his appeal against an initial refusal of asylum. He was later arrested for breaching the terms of his temporary admission, and representations urging the Home Office to reconsider his case were rejected.

Sources said the UK authorities had furnished Algeria with details showing the returned deportee had been a police officer, making him a prime target for arrest.

A Home Office Spokeswoman said last night that they were aware of the case and were making urgent enquiries into it.