Letter: British refuge saves lives of Algerians

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The Independent Online
Sir: Last week the reports that an asylum-seeker had died in custody on his enforced return to Algeria highlighted the civil war there. The deportation of the many Algerians currently detained in prisons and detention centres here was suspended. How tragic if the good news (report, 19 May), that that particular asylum seeker is alive and unharmed, should become bad news for those Algerians hoping for temporary admission, were it to be used as an excuse by the Home Office to speed up their deportation.

The risk to any young man sent back to Algeria is enormous. Those avoiding military service because they don't want to kill their compatriots have "disappeared" in police custody. Those who have completed theirs suffer reprisals from Muslim terrorists. No one knows what has happened to many of those who have already been forcibly repatriated.

I have come to know a number of Algerians over the past two years through visiting them in detention. They have strong family ties and miss their culture and way of life. All they want is the chance to stay here until it is reasonably safe to return. They are willing to work at the most menial jobs in order to support themselves and their friends. They do not want to depend on state benefits.

Detainees from Zaire have now mostly been released from detention. No doubt many will soon choose to return to make a fresh start in their country. I hope the new Home Secretary will see his way to ending months of agonising uncertainty by giving the same rights to the Algerians.