Deported Colombian is shot after losing plea to stay in Britain

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Indy Politics

A father who lost four member of his family to a right-wing paramilitary group in Colombia thought he had found a safe haven when he fled to Britain with his wife and children.

But despite a campaign by his MP, an anti-deportation group and his local community in South Shields, immigration authorities repatriated Jhon Reyes-Prado and his family last month. The campaigners' fears proved well-founded yesterday when they were told that - just one month after his return home - Mr Reyes-Prado, 33, had been shot by two hooded men on motorcycles.

He suffered severe injuries to his arm, and his wife and three children - one of them born in Britain - fear the attackers may target them too.

Yesterday, his MP David Miliband asked the Home Office urgently to review the family's case and for the Immigration minister Des Browne to liaise with the British embassy in Colombia to monitor the family's safety.

A spokeswoman from Mr Miliband's constituency office said he had made several representations on the family's behalf before they were deported and had queried the safety of sending them back to Colombia.

"He [Mr Miliband] is very concerned for the safety of the Reyes-Prado family," she said.

The family appealed against their deportation after the Home Office rejected their asylum application on the grounds that it would be safe for them to return to another part of the country than Cali, in the south, where four family members were murdered.

Mr Reyes-Prado's shooting in Bogota, an eight-hour drive from Cali, suggests otherwise.

He was forced to abandon his family's road haulage business in October 2000 after his uncle and two brothers were killed by right-wing paramilitaries. These groups are known to target human rights workers and those suspected of helping left-wing guerrillas. His father was later killed by them in 2002 and his mother fled to Italy.

Mr Reyes-Prado's son Johann, 13, described the fear which he, his mother, Mary, 30, and brothers Andres, eight, and Jhon-Paul, three, face on a daily basis.

"On the rare occasion my father went out to visit his mother-in-law's house in Bogota, he was shot. We have been living in the house for four weeks, watching TV. None of us have been to school and we are not even allowed to play in the garden in case someone sees us. My grandmother had to do the food shopping for us. We are like prisoners."

Sue Quantrill, 42, a campaigner from Whiteleas, South Shields, advised the family to go to the British embassy in the city when they rang her in Britain hours after the shooting but Johann said they felt too frightened to take the short journey.

Jenny Pearce, professor of Latin American politics at Bradford University, was commissioned to write a report by the family's solicitors, which was submitted but not accepted by the immigration authorities. In it, she argued against the assumption that it would be safe to resettle the family in a different region as the paramilitaries have a national network which can transcend regional repatriation solutions.

"In my experience, there is a very strong vendetta culture in Colombia when someone is targeted. Even after five or six years, some people remain targets. The paramilitaries have a very national structure and there are inter-links," she said.

Kath Sainsbury, the North-east co-ordinator of the National Coalition of Anti- Deportation Campaigns, said she was dismayed that the predictions of life-threatening danger had become real.

"Our Government was insisting it was safe for them to return. Sadly, it has been proved in the most tragic way, that it is not safe because Jhon has been shot," she said.