Human rights activist faces deportation today

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The Independent Online

An award-winning human rights activist is making a last-minute appeal against deportation to Cameroon, where he fears he faces immediate arrest and torture.

An award-winning human rights activist will make a last-minute appeal today against deportation to Cameroon, where he fears he faces immediate arrest and torture.

Nineteen months after claiming asylum in Britain, Gabriel Nkwelle has been served notice that he will be flown to the West African country this evening. Supporters will make one final plea to the immigration service to delay his removal for a few days on the ground that it breaches international conventions on human rights and treatment of refugees.

Before fleeing Cameroon Mr Nkwelle, a prominent critic of the government, was repeatedly beaten and locked up. He told The Independent last night: "I left my country for a safe country because of persecution. The death sentence has been abolished by the Cameroon constitution, but I think I will have several years in prison there because of my political involvement. It is obvious I will be ill-treated there."

Mr Nkwelle, a 34-year-old former quality controller for Del Monte, has also campaigned for better treatment of asylum-seekers in the UK, having been shuttled between Wandsworth, Rochester, Haslar and Belmarsh prisons. His efforts have been praised in the Lords by the former cabinet minister Baroness Williams of Crosby, who said: "If there ever was an example of the kind of person for whom most of us would use the term genuine asylum-seeker, Mr Nkwelle falls into that category."

On 10 December he and colleagues from the charity Bail for Immigration Detainees (BID) won this year's Liberty/Justice human rights award. Three days later his final appeal against deportation was dismissed and he was taken to the Harmondsworth Detention Centre in west London.

He was informed last week that his deportation had been fixed for Christmas Eve.

A Home Office spokesman said all the proper procedures relating to Mr Nkwelle's case had been followed. "Having had an application for asylum refused, an appeal against that refusal was considered by an independent adjudicator," the spokesman said.

Tim Baster, co-ordinator for BID, said: "The timing shows how desperate they are to get rid of him. Nine days ago he was working in our office as a volunteer. Today he is behind bars with no time to challenge the removal order.

"It is no accident the Home Office has chosen a public holiday to get an embarrassing human rights activist out of the country."