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Asylum-seeker 'was assaulted by security men during deportation'

Robert Verkaik
Tuesday 25 November 2008 01:00 GMT

Allegations that a Cameroonian man who came to Britain to escape torture in his own country was twice beaten by British security guards after he lost his claim for asylum and was being forcibly sent home are being investigated by the Government.

Anselme Noumbiwa, 32, claims he was first assaulted in July after he refused to board a Kenyan Airways plane because of his fear of returning to Cameroon. He says he was beaten by immigration escorts at the back of the aircraft but was spared deportation when airline staff intervened. In a second complaint Mr Noumbiwa, who fled Cameroon after being tortured, says he was beaten by five security guards when he resisted removal, this time on a British Airways flight on the morning of 23 October.

Mr Noumbiwa said: "When we arrived at the steps of the aircraft... they jumped on me and pushed me to the floor of the plane. They used their hands and feet to kick and punch me so that I would be quiet. Then one of them twisted the handcuffs against my wrist and I cried out in pain."

He said the guards tied his legs together and carried him to a seat. When he was transferred to an Air France aircraft in Paris for the journey to Cameroon passengers forced the pilot to stop the deportation. "Passengers ... asked the guards to remove the handcuffs but they refused," he said. "Then the pilot came to try to stop the passenger protest." Mr Noumbiwa said the French pilot ordered the guards to remove him from the aircraft. "They said they would not do this until the French national police came on board. So the pilot called the police," he said. He was flown back to Heathrow and transferred to Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre in West Drayton. He has since been released and is staying in Stockton-on-Tees.

A letter to Mr Noumbiwa from the UK Border Agency said "a senior officer will now investigate" his complaint.

Dame Nuala O'Loan, the former police ombudsman of Northern Ireland, is investigating the alleged abuse of failed asylum-seekers after details of hundreds of cases were handed to the Home Secretary in July. Anti-torture groups are to press Dame Nuala to investigate Mr Noumbiwa's complaint.

A UK Border Agency spokesman said: "The UK Border Agency takes all allegations of assault extremely seriously ... The majority of staff carry out their roles with professionalism and integrity. While it is preferable for those with no right to remain ... to return home voluntarily, it is regrettable that not all choose to do so and ... it may be necessary to enforce removal. The UKBA is committed to ensuring that removals are always carried out in the most sensitive way possible." The spokesman added: "We have an independent complaints system."

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