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British Court Stops Deportation of Darfuri Asylum Seekers


Court of Appeal judges in London have ruled in favor of three Darfuri asylum seekers the British government wanted to send back to Sudan. But as Tendai Maphosa reports from London for VOA, the judgment may be a temporary reprieve for the asylum seekers, as the government intends to petition the House of Lords for permission to appeal the court's decision.

The judges ruled that the three should not be sent back to camps in Khartoum as conditions there were "unduly harsh." The three had appealed a ruling by the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal that would have sent them back to the Sudanese capital.

The court ruling means that hundreds of Sudanese who fled violence in Darfur can now remain in Britain, at least until the government's petition is heard by the House of Lords.

A statement by the Home Office Border and Immigration Agency expressed disappointment at the decision, saying the court had not found that the non-Arab Darfuris would face mistreatment in Khartoum.

One of the three appellants, Naroudin Mohamed, who says he escaped from Darfur after being tortured, told VOA he has no doubt what would happen to him if he is sent back to Sudan.

"Definitely, if they send you back it means the end of your life - maybe they will kill you. Thank God they did not send us back," Mohamed said.

James Smith, who is with a group called Aegis Trust, a non-governmental organization that has been acting on behalf of the Darfuris, said the battle for the them to remain in Britain is far from over. He said if the government wins its appeal, his organization would present new evidence that proves that Darfuris would be victimized should they be sent back.

"This [is] important, first of all to protect the few hundred that have escaped the atrocities, and they are just a drop in the ocean, compared to the millions who are at risk out there. Now that they are on the shores of Britain we believe that we have an obligation to protect them," Smith said.

Smith added that the actions of the British government are undermining all the tough talk by Prime Minister Tony Blair and other western leaders against the humanitarian crisis in Darfur.