Australia and Kenya played 'refugee ping-pong' with deportee in another DIMIA bungling

Project SafeCom Inc.
P.O. Box 364
Western Australia 6312
Phone: 0417 090 130

Australia and Kenya played 'refugee ping-pong' with deportee in another DIMIA bungling

Media Release
Wednesday July 13 2005 9:30am WST
For Immediate Release
No Embargoes

"In another case of what appears an example of serious mismanagement by the Department of Immigration (DIMIA), Australian authorities deported an asylum seeker to Kenya during February last year, but on arrival the man was promptly send back to Australia - and then immediately sent back to Kenya again," WA refugee group Project SafeCom claims this morning.

In a newspaper report in the Kampala publication 'The Monitor' by a London and Kenyan reporter, the case was mentioned as an example of stateless asylum seekers who are 'stranded' and 'living' in airport lounges such as in the Kenyan Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA).

While the deportation bungle reportedly started with Australia's expulsion of the man last year February, the man reportedly is currently still detained in Immigration custody in Nairobi.

"The case, whatever the details may show upon further investigation, shows the powerlessness of 'undocumented' asylum seekers against the all-powerful bureaucracy of also Australian authorities. The worst combination of these factors is one where an Immigration Department such as the Australian DIMIA, cannot be relied upon to be clear, free of bias and free of bungling."

"We know since Vivian Solon and Cornelia Rau, and a further alleged two-hundred cases of errors in dealings with unlawful detentions and perhaps also deportations, that DIMIA is a seriously mismanaged government department. It seems that the case of this African man may be yet another one, where people's lives and welfare, as well as their rightful freedom, are at serious risk, where DIMIA is a major factor in the risks posed for the man," spokesman Jack H Smit said.

For more information:

Jack H Smit
Project SafeCom Inc.
[phone number posted]

Drama Earns Man Citizenship

The Monitor (Kampala)
July 11, 2005
Fred Mukinda in Nairobi
And Derek Otieno, London

After 13 months, the man who has been stranded at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport (JKIA) can go to the UK in two weeks' time after his application for full British citizenship was approved earlier this week.

Born in Kitale on October 24, 1962, Mr Sanjay Shah's dream was having a successful life in Britain. He renounced his Kenyan citizenship at the Immigration Department in Nairobi, last year.

Earlier, in March, the British High Commission in Kenya had granted him the British Overseas Citizen status.

But on landing at Heathrow airport in London in May, he was denied entry into Britain after he said he intended to stay for more than two months. "I was labelled an illegal immigrant and a prohibited person in Britain," he said.

Mr Shah was promptly deported, but on landing in Nairobi on June 1, could not go beyond the airport's duty free area. Immigration said he was not a citizen of Kenya, but of Britain.

It is here that he has been staying for over a year. But a few days ago, a British High Commission official met with Mr Shah and told him he was a British citizen.

"Good news Mr Shah, your application for British citizenship has been approved," was all the commission official said.

"I just cried for a full hour, it was a long wait," said Mr Shah. The announcement comes after a dramatic scenario that has caused some friction within the diplomatic corridors in Kenya and the UK.

He has had the most mundane lifestyle for the past 13 months, living in the tiny confines of the Duty Free area of the airport and sleeping in one of the departure lounges.

He washed in the airport lavatories and survived on coffee and food given to him by people working in the airport cafes.

His wife, Rashmita, and 15-year-old son, Veer, who have Kenyan passports also visited him every few days, bringing food and clean clothes for him. Everyday, he woke up at 5a.m. to predictable experiences with nothing new to spice-up his days.

Apart from chatting with friends he made at the Duty Free shops, he helped Indian visitors who could not speak or read English.

On July 12, he will be at the British High Commission to pledge allegiance to his new country. But until then, the airport will continue to be his home, as it has been for the past 13 months.

Although Kenyan immigration officials have offered him a temporary VISA into Kenya, he has turned it down.

"I simply cannot take that risk again. A small mistake has trapped me here for the past 13 months," he explained, adding, "I will only leave here a few hours before the ceremony at the commission."

Made famous by the international media for his persistent protests with the British government that had denied him citizenship, he believes his widely publicised tale, both locally and abroad, might have partially contributed to the change of heart by Britain.

His name has became so common that all and sundry except visitors know him.

Mr Shah says he will miss the company of his wife and son but plans to do business and then secure citizenship for his family once he is successful.

His sister who lives in London told the Nation that he is expected in the country once he gets the documentation either Friday or Monday.

This is not the first such case at JKIA. An Immigration official who preferred anonymity told the Nation about a man believed to be of Australian origin who is being held at their cells for lacking nationality.

The "Australian" landed in Kenya in February last year but was promptly deported for allegedly having destroyed his documents.

Australia too could not keep him and he was flown back to Kenya after which he was decisively taken to Kakuma refugee camp.

It is not clear how he found his way back to Nairobi where he was arrested and put under the Immigration custody.

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