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Wednesday, November 11, 1998 Published at 03:12 GMT

World: Europe

Refugee death troubles Belgium

An asylum seeker's death in September provoked widespread protests

There is a new outcry in Belgium over the treatment of immigrants after the death of a Nigerian man refused treatment by two hospitals because he had no official papers.

John Madu had been living in Belgium illegally after being refused asylum and was turned away by doctors despite repeated requests for treatment for his condition Hepatitis B.

Eventually the 31-year-old was taken in for tests but discharged the same day.

He died three days later at a train station east of the capital, Brussels. He had bled to death, deprived of the special medication for his condition, Hepatitis B.

Belgium's treatment of immigrants was called into question six week ago when Nigerian asylum-seeker Semira Adamu suffocated to death as she was being forcibly deported. The Interior Minister Louis Tobback resigned over that case.

Government: He should have been treated

The Belgian government has been swift to condemn those who refused Mr Madu initial medical treatment.

It points out that since 1996, a law has existed to guarantee illegal immigrants the right to emergency care.

A government spokesman stressed that any treatment that doctors think is necessary will be paid for by the state.

[ image: Interior Minister Louis Tobback resigned last month after protests]
Interior Minister Louis Tobback resigned last month after protests
The Belgian Secretary of State responsible for the welfare of asylum seekers, Yan Peeters has gone further still, saying that if doctors are refusing treatment, there is clearly racism at play.

The Belgian Senate is currently debating the problems facing some 10,000 people living illegally in Belgium without papers or rights.

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