Wednesday, February 17, 1999 Published at 17:44 GMT
Deportation orders in doubt after test case
Thousands of asylum seekers may be allowed to stay
The Home Secretary, Jack Straw, may be forced to cancel up to 50,000 deportation orders after a test case ruling at the Court of Appeal.
Three appeal judges have allowed a 36-year-old teacher facing deportation to Azad Kashmir to remain in the UK saying it was up to the Home Secretary to prove that it safe for him to return home.
Mohammed Arif, 36, who lives in Luton, Bedfordshire, escaped from the disputed area of Azad Kashmir in 1992 after he was tortured by police in prison.
On the advice of his lawyers he came to Britain and in his absence was sentenced to seven years hard labour on several charges including alleged incitement to murder at a political demonstration against the then ruling Muslim Convention party.
A special adjudicator had accepted his plea to stay in the UK but this was overturned by the Immigration Appeals Tribunal which ruled that as the PPP party had returned to power in 1996, he was no longer under any threat and could appeal against his conviction when he returned home.
Burden of proof
Lord Justice Simon Brown said the "burden does rest on the Secretary of State that the appellant could safely be returned home with no reasonable likelihood of being persecuted".
He added: "For purely political reasons he was falsely accused and then for good measure tortured awaiting trial. It does not follow he would have escaped wrongful conviction.
"The evidence may have been made to appear invincible. To say he may succeed on appeal seems to me to leave too much to chance.
"It is up to the Secretary of State to satisfy us that he would not have to serve any significant part of the seven year sentence to which, through reasons of political persecution, he is now subject."
"For my part I am wholly unsatisfied of this."
'Victory for immigrants
Tiki Emezie, his solicitor, called the ruling "a major victory for immigrants".
"It is very difficult to estimate the numbers of others this ruling will affect, but it must be as many as 50,000," he said.
"Now it will be up to the home secretary to prove rather than assume that the political climate is safe in countries like Ethiopia, Somalia, Turkey and Nigeria. After this ruling today, it is a principle of law now."