Disabled athlete gets deportation reprieve

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The Independent Online

Even giant clouds of volcanic smoke have silver linings – for some people at least. Vincent Onwubiko, 43, a disabled power-lifting champion, is one of dozens of failed asylum-seekers who have won an unexpected reprieve after the intervention of Mt Eyjafjallajokull.

Mr Onwubiko, who has been held in detention for nearly three years, was due to be removed to Nigeria on a flight leaving Heathrow on Thursday night.

"I was packed and had my removal directions," said Mr Onwubiko, who is detained at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre near Heathrow. "But then I heard about the volcano eruption and the flights being stopped. I waited until it was way past the time of my flight, but no guards came to collect me."

Mr Onwubiko, from Lewisham, south-east London, is confined to a wheelchair due to childhood polio. He represented Britain at a paraplegic tournament in 1995 and was also selected for the Great Britain team at the 1996 Paralympics in Atlanta but was unable to attend.

A previous attempt to remove Mr Onwubiko to Lagos was abandoned last month after farcical scenes at Heathrow because immigration officers forgot his wheelchair. It has since emerged that his case is still being considered by the High Court, after he lodged an appeal on the grounds that his removal would be a breach of his human rights. He came to the UK in 1994 but was automatically cleared for deportation after being jailed in 2007 for driving while disqualified.

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