General News Fri, 1 Mar 2002

Outrage Over Forced Deportation of Asylum Seekers

Last January's exposure by Swedish TV series about the complicity of African governments and Western police in illegal deportation of unsuccessful African and Caribbean asylum-seekers has elicited widespread outrage. Africans and even some Swedish groups and individuals have censured Western European police and immigration authorities saying the arrangement is in violation of UN conventions..

Africans watching the accounts of Caribbean deportees being dumped into Ghana could not help the sad irony: once Ghana was the outpost for sending slaves to the Caribben Islands and the United States known as the Trans Atlantic Slave Trade during the years 1500 to1800. (The first part of this article was carried in AANA Bulletion 07/02 of February 25,2002. This is the final part.)

Nothing better could illustrate how history has repeated itself in baffling manner. Once Africans were being forced out and today they are being forced back to the contiinent!

A documentary in the Swedish Television (SvT) revealed that by offering bribes to local officials, Western European police and immigration authorities have been able to sustain a racket of forced deportation of unsuccessful African and Caribbean asylum-seekers to countries in Africa.

The director of Afro-Swedish Association ASR, an anti-discrimination advocacy, Mr Mykabela Sabuni regreted: "This is absolutely sad. There are significant parallels with what was happening during Slave Trade between Europe and Africa. We can see the Swedish police as the European slave masters of the past.

"The programme also showed how Africans are being used to sell their own brothers and sisters. That is the role of the Consul General in the programme. We must protest this inhuman treatment of Africans yet again".


Equally infuriated, the Chairman of Ghana Union of Sweden, Francis Boamah, riled: "I am very angry at my countrymen who are being used. (Those responsible) should be tried alongside with the Swedish police who are offering bribes and thrown to jail".

Members of the Swedish Opposition are now baying for the blood of the ruling Social Democrats.The controversy is likely to make immigration policy an item of debate in the forthcoming General Election.

Sweden's international reputation, says Johan Pehrsson of the Liberal Party, has been badly dented. "When other represssive countries hear how Sweden is breaking human rights they cannot be expected to emulate us".

G?ran Lindblad of the Conservative Party, on the other hand, has objected to the role of bribery by Swedish police to enforce the dumping of Africans in Ghana. In a question to the Swedish parliament he remarked: "The Consul General seemed as if he owned the entire airport".

Uffa Hoffmann of the Left Party is now working to mobilise other Opposition parties in order to debate the motion as a matter of national importance.

She wants the loophole in the Swedish Aliens Act scrapped, she said in an interview.


"But we are not surprised by Sweden's abuse of UN conventions on the rights of asylum-seekers and how they are supposed to be treated. This is not the first time Swedish government has been criticised. The United Nations Human Rights Commission's Commitee Against Torture(CAT) has pointed out severally that our country doesn't respect these convetions".

Some of the episodes captured in the series included a tale of two Nigerians: One who escaped the dungeons and the other who fell. The series recalled how six years back Lewis Idahosa and Theophilis Owie were arrested by Swedish police after their applications for residence permits were denied.

They had fled Nigeria during the military dictatorship and had feared political persecution during the late Sanni Abacha's regime. Nevertheless, the two Nigerians were bundled into police car and driven to the airport in Stockholm where they never were told anything about their destination.

They finally arrived in Ghana.

A student of computer science Idahosa narrated his ordeal: "I asked the Swedish police why are they are bringing me to Ghana which is not my country.Their answer: 'Keep quiet. Go in'. They were so aggresive to us.

But plucking the last minute courage Idahosa and his countryman refused to be cowed once they touched down in Ghana. They began to shout publicly as they were being forced from the plane to the passport control.


After working up a scene at the airport and drawing the support from the public the Swedish plot backfired. They were flown back to Sweden and in the second bid Idahosa slipped away and went underground as the police made fresh attempts to hand them back.

In the meantime Idahosa's daughter with a Swedish mother was born and the Swedish authorities subsequently granted his permit. A happy ending story but Idahosa is not a happy man.

Theophilus Owie was unlucky and three years ago he was whisked off to Ghana. Says Idahosa: "I dont know if he is alive or dead. I have phoned his brother in Germany. No one seems to know where he is".

The ordeal of 30-year-old Ugandan Peter Ekwiri began in 1992 when he arrived in Sweden. His father and family belonged to a clan living along the borders of Uganda and Sudan and as his father had served the government during Idi Amin's time.

Ekwiri claimed he has had to endure retributions from the new government of President Museveni. When he came to Sweden, Ekwiri admits having lied about his Sudanese origin as he was tipped by friends that Sweden no longer considered merits in those fleeing Uganda as the country had stabilised.

Indeed, virtually no refugees from Uganda have been given asylum in Sweden the last 10 years and the government made its point by threatening the deportation of an ailing Ugandan woman living with AIDS and her two children that same year.

No doubt the Swedish Migration turned down Ekwiri's application. The Swedish authorities then brought in language experts to determine his roots. The experts gave three different versions putting Ekwiri as hailing from East Africa, West Africa or Cameroon.

Nevertheless, the Swedish police flew Ekwiri to Ghana where he was thrown into the police cells. After a while he was released but had no identification papers nor money.

Stranded in Ghana he was able to survive taking teaching jobs. But last year Ekwiri was arrested on what he believes are trumped up charges for sexual assault being a foreigner and no rights whatsoever.

"Sweden has taken my six years of my life," he told Fotress Europe believing that his problems in Ghana are related to Sweden having jetissoned him to a country he has no links with whatsoever and over 5,000 kilometres away from home. u

*The author of the above article is based in Stockholm

Source: Moussa Awuonda for African Church Information Service