22 February 2001 Edition

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Deportations without even a court hearing

Last week, the 26-County Department of Justice announced that 222 people, who had sought asylum in this state, had been deported since July 1999, when the Immigration Act came into force. Six had been deported in 1999, 187 last year, and 29 so far this year. The figure went up to 30 on Thursday, when the Department whisked an asylum seeker away just before his solicitor was due to apply for leave to review the Tribunal's rejection of his plea for asylum.

In fact, Minister John O'Donoghue has made 1,132 deportation orders, but according to the minister 353 people had evaded Deportation Orders, 164 were not at their last known address and 207 had been granted leave to seek judicial review in the High Court. Deportation orders on 55 people had been revoked, primarily on the basis of legal advice.

He went on to say that ``arrangements were being put in place in respect of another 49 people. Sixty people would have to have their return negotiated with the authorities in their respective countries of origin.

Last year, O'Donoghue visited Romania and Nigeria to put these arrangements in place. Quite a large proportion of asylum seekers in Ireland come from these two countries. An impression has been put about that asylum seekers from these two countries are `only' economic migrants and therefore have no right to claim asylum, but this is a grave misconception, says Pat Guerin, a spokesperson for the Anti-Racism Campaign.

Nigeria in particular is a state without democracy or respect for human rights. Yet the Dublin government issues and implements deportation orders without any reference to a court of law or proper judicial proceedings. Deportation by agreement with the state of origin means that a deportee is handed over to the state authorities. The chance to flee that state's persecution is denied.

A case in point happened last week. It is the case of Blessing Ogueri.

Blessing Ogueri Deported

Blessing Ogueri is a Nigerian, a Christian preacher who criticised the government in Nigeria. He is a member of the Ibo tribe. The Nigerian Government now is mainly Hausa.

Blessing witnessed a massacre of Christians in the Hausa North, where Moslem Sharia law holds. He told Residents against Racism (RAR) of seeing a lorry with corpses piled high on it. Some were people he knew. Blessing was tipped off that he too would be killed. He escaped.

Blessing was living in Kildare. He applied for asylum here. His application and appeal were rejected by the tribunal that hears claims for asylum.

Last week, plain clothed men came, arrested him, handcuffed him, would not let him call home to get his belongings. He was taken to a cell in Mountjoy Jail. The government allowed a Nigerian government official to visit Blessing in the jail to interrogate him.

Blessing had the right to apply for a hearing in a court of law. He didn't get the chance. On Thursday, at around 6 am, he was awoken and taken handcuffed to Dublin Airport. He struggled, even though he was in chains, to resist being taken on the flight to be handed over directly to the Nigerian Government, his persecutor.

He personally told representatives of RAR that in Nigeria, as a critic of the government and Christian devotee, he would almost certainly face death, whether in or out of prison.

At the airport, many of Blessing's supporters, including TD Joe Higgins, tried to insist that the state respect Blessing's legal right to apply for a court hearing. ``We were lied to all day by the Department and Immigration officials about Blessing's whereabouts,'' Rosanna Flynn reports. ``Blessing has gone. No one yet knows where to, or whether he is still alive.''

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