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Zimbabwean failed asylum seeker and ex convict in line for compensation by UK govt

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A Zimbabwean man held in a UK immigration detention centre for more than two years was falsely imprisoned, the UK Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday.

Shepherd Kambadzi, a failed asylum seeker and former convict, is now in line for compensation by the government.

Wednesday’s ruling is the end of a three-year legal battle for Kambadzi, who was detained while the Home Office tried to remove him from the UK.

Hundreds of other foreign national prisoners convicted of more minor offences are being detained indefinitely when they can't be deported.

The court said the Home Office had failed to carry out regular reviews of his detention in line with its policy. By the date of the first instance hearing of this claim, he had been entitled to 22 monthly reviews of the lawfulness of his detention, in addition to the five reviews which should have taken place in the first month. But his detention had been reviewed only ten times.

Pierre Makhlouf, head of law at Bail for Immigration Detainees, which was involved in the case, said: "This is very good news for other cases we are fighting and will oblige the UK Border Agency to take the issue of deprivation of liberty more seriously.

"Detention is regularly for long periods of time and there is therefore a pressing need for full protective measures."

Kambadzi arrived in the UK in 2002 on a visitor's visa, which expired in 2004. In December 2005 he was convicted of assault and sexual assault and sentenced to 12 months in prison.

The day before he was due to be released, he was detained under Immigration Act power which allow for foreign nationals to be held pending the making of a deportation order.

Two years later, in April 2008, with Kambadzi still in detention, his lawyers took the case to the High Court, arguing that his detention was unlawful because it was not reviewed on the required monthly basis. No review was carried out at all in the first 10 months of his detention.

He was released in June 2008 but has still not been removed to Zimbabwe because of the political situation there.

At an earlier stage of the case at the High Court, judge Justice Munby described as "casual mendacity" a Home Office practice in which the writing of monthly progress reports "seemed to have predated the actual decision".

Giving the majority verdict on Wednesday, Lord Hope said the court rejected the Home Office argument that the failure to follow procedures did not make detention unlawful.

An order was made for compensation, although the amount will be minimal if the Home Office can argue it would have detained Kambadzi even if the reviews had taken place.

A Home Office spokesperson said: "We are disappointed by the court's decision, but this will not affect our intention to deport this foreign national criminal.

"Our priority will always be to protect the public, and we will seek to remove any foreign national convicted of a serious crime."

Foreign national prisoners became a pressing issue for the Home Office in 2006. The then Home Secretary Charles Clarke was forced to resign when it was discovered that about 1,000 foreign national prisoners had been released without being considered for removal.

Clarke's successor, John Reid, introduced a tougher policy that all foreign nationals would be detained at the end of a criminal sentence.

Keith Vaz, Labour MP and head of the home affairs select committee, said: "Detaining people for long periods of time should not be an immigration solution. The current situation keeps those being held in limbo and is a waste of taxpayers' money."

Lawyers say the policy has led to hundreds of people being detained despite there being no way to remove them quickly from the UK.

Some countries, including Somalia, Iran and Algeria, refuse to co-operate with forced removals and it can take many months, or even years, to issue travel documents. The Home Office said detainees often refused to provide identification that would help speed up deportation.

Figures from September last year showed that 260 people had been held in immigration detention for more than a year. Most of those were former prisoners waiting to be removed.

Makhlouf said lawyers were dealing with more cases of long-term detention. "Increasingly we are getting more and more people who are being detained for three or four years," he said. "I get the sense that the Home Office forgets people."

The Home Office also faces legal challenges from detainees who have lived legally in the UK and have children. Many are fighting their deportation on the grounds that it would breach their right to a family life under article 8 of the European Human Rights Act.

 
 
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