'You want to claim asylum? Well, as you can imagine we're a bit busy here at the moment...'
How easy is it to sign yourself over to Ecaudor? Kevin Rawlinson finds out
"We're having a little situation here, could you leave your number and we'll call you back?" was the somewhat understated response from the Ecuadorean embassy yesterday when The Independent enquired about the possibility of claiming asylum.
The "situation" was the WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange and the tonne of legal and political bricks his plea for protection has sent crashing down on the small embassy, which sits behind Harrods in west London. Dealing with the delicate situation apparently, and perhaps understandably, means the staff did not have the time to look at any other claims yesterday.
Reporters and photographers from media outlets across the world were outside the red-brick building as Mr Assange was kept under Ecuadorean government protection while his claim was being considered.
Gavin MacFadyen, a friend of Mr Assange, said the WikiLeaks founder was staying in a small, simple room with a bed and a TV. "It is not luxury but I think we have all had worse," he said.
Mr MacFadyen added: "He is fine; he is in very good humour and grateful for the hospitality of the embassy. He is meeting with the lawyers now to discuss all of it. It's a very fluid situation; he is in good humour and the generosity of the embassy is impressive and moving." Mr Assange walked into the embassy on Tuesday and asked for asylum and protection, beginning a process which was then passed to Quito for consideration. It will eventually come back to this bit of west London but its ramifications will be international.
Only a security guard was answering calls at the front door of the embassy yesterday. Initially, there was trouble finding anyone to speak to over the phone about asylum applications.
Eventually, The Independent was told that staff were not able to take any more calls while they dealt with the current request. The process of claiming asylum from Britain to another country is relatively unusual, experts said. More common is foreign nationals seeking leave to stay in Britain.
The relatively small backlog of cases could mean Mr Assange's claim is considered quickly, although anyone else's, it appears, will have to wait a little longer.
Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
Strewth mate. Aussies wave goodbye to Britain as it becomes too pricey to stay
World news in pictures
Far-right French historian, 78-year-old Dominique Venner, commits suicide in Notre Dame in protest against gay marriage
Oklahoma tornado latest: Obama pledges support for 'as long as it takes' to rebuild the suburb of Moore
- 2 Gay couple beaten in park urge MPs to moderate language on gay marriage
- 3 After woman sells virginity for $780,000, here are the results of our prostitution survey
BMF is the UK’s biggest and best loved outdoor fitness classes
Win anything from gadgets to five-star holidays on our competitions and offers page.
Excellent Salary Package - £60K to £120K: Austen Lloyd: We have an exciting op...
£200 - £250 per day: Progressive Recruitment: Java Developer - Urgent Requirem...
£70000 - £95000 per annum + Bonus, flexible working hours, remote work: Progre...
£50000 - £56000 per annum + Benefits package, flexible working hours: Progress...