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Friday, 4 February, 2000, 12:05 GMT
Jailed refugee being freed

Mr Obisan was held in Magilligan Prison

A Nigerian refugee seeking political asylum in the Republic of Ireland is to be allowed into the state after spending three months in a Northern Ireland jail.

Adesina Obisan, who fled torture at home, had been detained in Magilligan Prison in County Londonderry since last October, even though he had not committed a crime.

He had been travelling to Dublin when he was stopped, without a visa, coming through Belfast International Airport.

The Irish Government had agreed that he could join his family in the republic, however, bureaucratic red tape prevented that from happening.

Mr Obisan was distraught at being locked up with convicted criminals in the prison and frustrated with the system in the province.

Ellen Weaver: Wants law changed
However, on Friday it was revealed that following a wave of publicity about the case, Mr Obisan is being released from the jail to join his wife and six-month-old son.

The case prompted the Law Centre in Northern Ireland to appeal to the Home Office to bring in new legislation to improve the way refugees are treated.

Law Centre solicitor Ellen Weaver said the swiftness of moves to free Mr Obisan following the publicity was "unprecedented".

But she added: "We are delighted at this but the issue has not gone away.

"We used the case to highlight the fact that the detainment in jail of asylum seekers is wrong".

She said a number of asylum seekers were still being detained in Northern Ireland prisons and that delays in dealing with their cases was "outrageous".

On Thursday, Ms Weaver explained the bureaucratic wrangle which prevented Mr Obisan from being united with his family.

Proof of identity

She said the Dublin authorities had wanted proof of Mr Obisan's identity.

However, when his wife supplied birth and marriage certificates, they then wanted further proof of his relationship with his family.

She said: "They were unwilling to accept the documentation which was produced, merely because it was Nigerian, which we do not consider an appropriate practice."

We used the case to highlight the fact that the detainment in jail of asylum seekers is wrong
Ellen Weaver
She also said that further DNA testing sufficiently established the refugee's relationship with his wife and child.

Ms Weaver said the refugee had been deeply upset at his treatment.

She said jail was not an appropriate place for such people who are in need of specialist support.

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See also:
15 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Immigration Bill condemned
15 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Head to head: Immigration and Asylum Bill
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UK accused over child refugees
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Straw confirms asylum concessions
27 Feb 99 |  UK
Thousands protest against asylum laws
09 Feb 99 |  UK Politics
Immigration bill for 'faster' system
15 Jun 99 |  UK Politics
Labour avoids asylum rebellion

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