Deportee's cancer death 'on Britain's conscience'

Law Editor,Robert Verkaik
Friday 21 March 2008 01:00 GMT

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The treatment of Ama Sumani, a terminally ill cancer patient who was forcibly taken from her hospital bed and deported to Ghana, had already been described as a uniquely barbaric act.

Her death, just hours after her friends in Wales had raised enough money to fly her back to the UK for emergency care, has shamed Britain's immigration system and provoked outrage. Doctors, human rights groups and senior members of the clergy said yesterday that there was an urgent need to end the removal of very sick, failed asylum-seekers.

The Archbishop of Wales, Dr Barry Morgan, said the death of Ms Sumani, 39, who had two children, was now on the nation's conscience. Ms Sumani's friend Janet Simmons said she had tried to contact Ms Sumani to tell her that the campaign to bring her back to Britain had raised £60,000, which would have been used to pay for private treatment in the UK.

Ms Simmons, who returned to Britain on Sunday from her friend's hospital bedside in Ghana, said: "I rang Ghana to tell her the good news and was told that she had died two hours before. She was just too tired to carry on and gave up."

She said a pharmaceutical company had agreed to supply the medication free of charge and that she was in the process of applying for an emergency visa for Ms Sumani's return. The money will now go towards paying for the funeral and to fund the education of her children, Mary, 16, and Samede, seven.

Dr Morgan said yesterday: "I believe her death is on the conscience of this nation because we deported her when it was against every humanitarian instinct to do so."

Ms Sumani moved to the UK five years ago to become a student but began working in contravention of her visa regulations.

She had been receiving dialysis three times a week in the UK after her kidneys were damaged by cancer but was forced to leave when her visa expired.

On 9 January five immigration officers arrived at the University Hospital of Wales, Cardiff, where Ms Sumani was being treated for malignant myeloma. Against her will, they removed her in a wheelchair and drove her to Heathrow airport where she was flown back to Ghana, a country that could not afford to treat her condition.

The Home Office's actions were immediately condemned by Ms Sumani's supporters and attacked in an editorial in the respected medical journal The Lancet, which described the decision as "atrocious barbarism".

It was reported that British immigration officials who accompanied her to Accra, in Ghana, offered to pay for the first three months, £3,022, but the offer was rejected because Ms Sumani had no source of funds to continue treatment.

In an interview given after her return, Ms Sumani said that she did not know anyone in Accra as she was from the north of the country, where her family remain.

Lin Homer, the chief executive of the Border and Immigration Agency, said: "This is a sad case... The circumstances surrounding this case were not unique though. The case was carefully considered by both trained caseworkers but also through the independent judicial process, which is better and fairer than a decision by me... or by the minister."

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