Judge slams UKBA for unlawful detention of family seeking asylum from Cameroon

Re-posted from the Stoke-on-Trent Sentinel, January 23 2010.

“..the handling of this case as a whole, both prior to and following the bringing of judicial review, fails in several respects to meet the requirements of both the public interest in an efficient immigration system and the protection of individual rights”.

– Judge David Elvin

A FAMILY of asylum seekers are in line to receive tens of thousands of pounds in damages after they were unlawfully detained for three weeks.

A High Court judge yesterday ruled that Fred Nukagem, and his wife and children, were held for too long prior to a planned deportation to Cameroon due to the “procedural ineptitude” of immigration authorities.

Negotiations are now underway over how much should be paid to Mr Nukagem.

And the legal team for the 38-year-old, from Middleport, is also hoping to reach an agreement over a compensation settlement for his wife and three children.

Solicitor Hani Zubeidi, of London-based Fadiga and Co, said: “We are looking at tens of thousands of pounds because, quite frankly, this is a shocking case.”

Mr Nukagem, who says he and his family will be killed for political reasons if they return to Cameroon, claimed asylum after initially arriving in the country in 2003 as a student and later working illegally.

But his application was turned down and immigration officers raided his home.

He and wife Sandra Mbelle Yanga, as well as three-year-old twins Grace and Josepha, and Julie Sandra, aged one, were taken to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre on November 5, 2008.

They were due to be deported five days later, which would give authorities the chance to administer one to two days of a pre-dosage of anti-malarial drugs to the children.

But it later emerged the UK Border Agency had been given the wrong information about the drug, as Mefloquine requires three weeks of pre-dosage.

The family were released on bail on November 26.

During a High Court hearing in December, Mr Nukagem’s lawyers argued the period of detention was unlawful as the family had been locked up on a misunderstanding.

They said, even with the right information, the family would have been detained for too long.

The lawyers also said there was also no reasonable basis to think they would flee as the family had complied with conditions imposed as part of their asylum application.

Yesterday, Judge David Elvin told the court: “While this form of delay and procedural ineptitude is all too frequent in this area of the law, and may be understandable up to a point – although not necessarily excusable – it is a particular cause for concern and criticism in circumstances which involve the detention of young children.

“Indeed, the handling of this case as a whole, both prior to and following the bringing of judicial review, fails in several respects to meet the requirements of both the public interest in an efficient immigration system and the protection of individual rights.”

A judicial review over the family’s right to remain in the UK is ongoing.

Negotiations over damages should be complete within 56 days.

Mr Nukagem, of Port Street, said: “We cannot go back to Cameroon. If we do we will be murdered because of my links to political groups.

“I’m quite prepared to contribute to society. I have paid taxes and everything in the past, and I’ve never been in trouble with the police. I just want a better future for my family.”

Matthew Coats, head of immigration for the UK Border Agency said: “We are disappointed with the court’s judgment.

“These people had no legal right to be in this country and our aim was to remove them as quickly as possible.

“We will learn lessons from this case.

“We are committed to providing protection to those genuinely in need of it.”

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