Asylum-seeker cleared of rioting faces deportation

Ian Burrell@iburrell
Thursday 25 June 1998 23:02

IT IS a strange predicament for an innocent man. Having successfully cleared his name in a spectacular court victory last week, Stanley Nwadike sits in a Victorian prison cell waiting to be flown out of the country next week in handcuffs.

A former political dissident in Ogoniland, Nigeria, he is not expecting a friendly welcome in the West African state because of his opposition to Shell's oil explorations in his homeland.

His arrival will hardly go unnoticed. Apart from the highly visible presence of an accompanying British immig- ration official he has attracted notoriety from his involvement in what has become a cause celebre. Mr Nwadike and eight other West African asylum seekers became known as the Campsfield Nine.

They were controversially charged with riot and violent disorder after unrest at Britain's biggest immigration camp last year.

Group 4, which runs Campsfield, claimed its staff had been attacked. But the case collapsed after Group 4 officers repeatedly contradicted them- selves in their evidence.

While three of the defendants walked free, having been given refugee status or leave to remain, five others were taken to Rochester prison, Kent, pending their deportation. The other is in a psychiatric hospital.

On Thursday, the day after his 23rd birthday, Mr Nwadike is due to become the first of the nine to be deported.

Yesterday, solicitors representing the detained men wrote to The Independent calling on the immigration minister, Mike O'Brien, to allow them to stay in Britain.

"All our clients remain in prison even though they have been acquitted. The court proceedings have resulted in them being named in the press and placed at additional risk of persecution if returned to their own countries," they wrote.

But the Home Office said last night it had no plans to make a special case for the men. "Now the trial has collapsed arrangements for their removal have resumed," said a spokeswoman.

Also due to be removed from Britain in the next few days is, John Quaquah, a Ghanaian political dissident. Claims by both Mr Quaquah and Mr Nwadike that they are at risk of persecution if they are returned to their homelands have not been accepted by British officials.

Enahoro Esemuze, 25, was this week taken on to the hospital wing at Rochester and placed under suicide watch amid growing concern over his mental condition.

Friends said that he was normally an "intelligent and articulate" man but had become depressed and confused after 13 months in custody. His solicitor, Louise Christian, said she was considering a case of malicious prosecution.

She said Mr Esemuze's political background was similar to that of other members of the Campsfield Nine who have been given permission to remain in Britain. Sunny Ozidede and Edward Onabanjo Agora have been granted refugee status, and Lucky Agbebaku was given temporary admission.

One 17-year-old member of the Campsfield group is currently undergoing treatment for psychiatric illness at a secure hospital in London.

The Nigerian-born teenager was taken to hospital from the Feltham Young Offenders Institution, west London, where he took an overdose of anti- depressants and was on a life- support machine.

Also in Rochester is Harrison Tubman, an asylum-seeker from Liberia, who has been threatened with deportation to Nigeria because he entered Britain using the passport of a Nigerian woman.

The final member of the Campsfield group facing deportation, Sambou Marong, is still appealing against the decision to refuse him asylum. Yesterday he was given bail pending a final appeal hearing.

Meanwhile at Campsfield House, 22 detainees were yesterday in the fourth day of a hunger strike in protest that Mr O'Brien has not responded to requests to visit them to hear the concerns of asylum seekers at the centre.

They were angry that Mr O'Brien visited Campsfield five days before the riot trial in order to present Group 4 with an Investors in People award.

Yesterday Group 4 said that although the 22 asylum seekers were refusing meals, it believed that they were eating snack food bought from the Campsfield shop.

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