LETTER : Refugee was not 'smeared'

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THE allegation that I conducted a "smear" campaign against Abdul Onibiyo deserves an answer ("Minister's 'smear campaign' against refugee", 7 January).

When considering an application for asylum the Home Office is concerned only whether the applicant is able to demonstrate a genuine fear of persecution in his own country. The same applies to any appeal before the independent appellate authorities. Mr Onibiyo was unable to convince the special adjudicator that the decision to refuse him was wrong. The adjudicator said his application was "entirely without merit".

Mr Onibiyo's application to stay despite this ruling was refused because there were no compelling compassionate reasons for exercising discretion in his favour. The information we had about the family's conduct was relevant to this decision, but, as I have assured his supporters, it was certainly not conclusive.

I do not intend to conduct a lengthy debate here about the allegations against Mr Onibiyo. However, a number of issues, including his second marriage, need no further investigation because the evidence is conclusive.

First, he admitted under caution that he had taken a second wife and she was given leave to remain in the UK in the mid-1980s on this basis. If his supporters are saying his statement to the immigration authorities was untrue, this speaks for itself.

Second, it is indisputable that Mrs Onibiyo spent more than five years in council accommodation and in receipt of housing benefit when she and her husband already owned a substantial property in Essex which they chose to rent out. Perhaps Mr and Mrs Onibiyo are not the model citizens their supporters would have the public believe.

I would not normally divulge such details. If applicants release details of their cases and make allegations about their consideration, however, it is proper for me to ensure that inaccuracies are corrected.

Timothy Kirkhope

Parliamentary Under Secretary of State, Home Office London SW1