Power-lifter’s temporary deportation reprieve after last-minute court move


A disabled power-lifter has secured a last-minute reprieve from being deported to Nigeria, after campaigners wrote to the home secretary to complain about his treatment.

Vincent Onwubiko, who has won five gold medals representing Britain in international competition, has lived in the UK since 1994.

But the government began moves to deport him two years ago after he was convicted of driving while disqualified.

He was due to be deported on 11 December, but his solicitor, Michael Ukwuoma, secured a last-minute judicial review on the grounds that Onwubiko had a case with the European Court of Human Rights.

He has now been taken to a detention centre at Colnbrook, near Heathrow airport, but Ukwuoma plans to lodge high court papers tomorrow (18 December) seeking his release from detention while his legal battle is ongoing.

His case follows that of disabled asylum-seeker Abbas Sharifi, who was deported to Afghanistan in July, despite desperate pleas from disability rights campaigners.

The disability charity RADAR wrote to the home secretary Alan Johnson on the day Onwubiko was due to be deported, saying it “strongly” believed such action would breach his right to a family life.

RADAR said the government might also be breaching the Disability Discrimination Act, as Onwubiko would return to a country with little practical support and without his close family, and that it may have failed in its legal duty to promote disability equality.

The letter, from RADAR’s chief executive Liz Sayce and joint deputy chief executive Caroline Ellis, said: “We cannot understand why having lived here for so long and contributed to this country he should be the subject of deportation at all.”

They also expressed “grave concerns” about allegations concerning the way Onwubiko was treated in prison and at an immigration removal centre.

Speaking before the judicial review was granted, David Wood, head of criminality and detentions for the UK Border Agency, said: “We have fully considered his case and made sure that his human rights are not breached.

“This decision has been reviewed and upheld by an immigration judge.”

After the judicial review was granted, a Home Office spokesman added: “I can confirm that the removal was postponed after Mr Onwubiko made further representations to the high court.

“A decision will be taken in due course by a judge to see if there is any new evidence that will affect his asylum claim.”

17 December 2009

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