Support Peter Gitau Gichura, disabled activist

Flight stopped but still at risk of deportation

Mr Peter Gichura, (HO Ref: G1053958) a father, a wheelchair user and disability activist from Kenya, today won an injunction cancelling his immediate deportation. He remains in detention at Harmondsworth awaiting bail and the outcome of his judicial review.

His recent detention comes just days after he took part in the “Claim the Buses” wheelchair users’ action organised by Transport for All, and was interviewed on ITV’s London Tonight (ITN, 21 August) unable to board a 24 bus. He was one of 250 wheelchair users taking part on the day. Mr Gichura is widely known and respected, and was released after huge public support and media interest when he was detained previously in February ( Is he being victimised here too for upholding disability rights?

After the last time he was detained, Mr Gichura launched a legal case under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and Human Rights Act (HRA) about the appalling conditions in Harmondsworth detention centre. He could not use the toilet or bath facilities, was denied essential medication and was searched in a painful and threatening way, all of which resulted in a deterioration of his health. With the case pending, the authorities chose to put him back in Harmondsworth, in the same illegal conditions as before. Mr Gichura’s case under the DDA and HRA is likely to set an important precedent establishing what responsibility the authorities have towards people with disabilities who are also asylum seekers, and all who are asylum seekers, which will have crucial implications for the entitlement of all of us to care and humane treatment.

Mr Gichura’s justified asylum claims have been refused twice, so he is still at risk of eventual deportation. In 2001, he claimed asylum from persecution for his political disability rights activity after fleeing Kenya in fear for his life because of repeated violence and intimidation, including death threats from the authorities. When interviewed by the Home Office shortly after arrival, he was in pain, exhausted and lacking legal representation, resulting in minor discrepancies which the Home Office seized on to dismiss his application and subsequent appeals.

Mr Gichura’s fresh claim of 25 April on disability and health grounds was refused despite compelling evidence from Rachel Hurst OBE of Disability Awareness in Action (who is also a member of the Advisory Group to the government Office for Disability Issues), that if returned to Kenya, he will be unable to access the essential medical care he needs, without which his life is in danger. He has a spinal injury with associated bladder problems and urinary tract infections. He is waiting for an operation which he would never afford in Kenya.

The public is not aware that the Home Office and courts have dismissed disability and health grounds for asylum even when someone’s life will be shortened if sent back. The threshold set for exceptions to this is so high that lawyers say no one can satisfy that test -- in order to stay, "a person's medical condition must be at such a critical stage that there are compelling humanitarian grounds for not removing them to a country which lacks the medical and social services to prevent acute suffering before death" (D v UK 1997 24 EHRR 423). People with disabilities and ill-health are treated as entirely expendable – this has become a key tenet of asylum policy. These attacks on vulnerable disabled people spearhead the government’s brutal asylum policy.



August 2006

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