Politician who fled coup loses asylum plea

A FORMER vice-president of Sierra Leone who fled his country after an armed coup yesterday lost a High Court appeal to be allowed to stay in Britain.

Dr Abdulai Conteh is considered unwelcome by the Home Office because he was a member of a corrupt government which had bankrupted his country over 23 years, the court heard.

The Home Office also argued that Britain had no responsibility to give him asylum because it was not the first safe country he reached. Dr Conteh, who has a house in Finchley, north London, took a flight to Belgium before coming to Britain.

Dr Conteh escaped from the West African state in a canoe after the military coup in April. After hiding in a neighbouring country he took the only available direct flight to Belgium.

When he reached London he telephoned the office of Baroness Chalker, the Overseas Development Minister, to tell her about the coup.

The following day immigration officials arrested him at his London home. He was held at a detention centre before being allowed bail. He said he had not played any part in corrupt practices but had tried to move his country to a multi-party democracy.

The Home Office said in a letter that although there were no indications that Dr Conteh was personally corrupt, he must have been aware of corruption around him.

Dr Conteh, whose son is a British citizen and who has a daughter at Roedean public school, is likely to appeal on the grounds that the Home Office has disregarded the Dublin Convention, which allows 'third country' refugees to claim asylum if they have relatives in another country in the European Community.