Roll call of deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, 1989-2001

December 7, 2006 — News

Written by Harmit Athwal

IRR has, since 1989, been recording the deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants – two of the most vulnerable sections of our society – as a result of attempting to enter the UK, self-harm, denial of medical treatment, destitution, hazardous working conditions or racist attacks.

Forced by circumstances beyond their control to seek a life outside their home countries, prevented by our laws from entering legally and from working, denied a fair hearing by the asylum system, excluded from health and safety protection at work, kept from social care and welfare, unhoused and destitute, vilified by the media and therefore dehumanised in the popular imagination, their hopes of another life are finally extinguished.

This page lists deaths from 1989-2001. Click here to read the list of deaths from 2002-2004. Click here to read the list of deaths from 2005 onwards.

 Igor Litvinenko, (21), 6/89

A Russian man was found dead in the undercarriage of a plane arriving from Moscow at Gatwick airport. A post mortem found that he died from a lack of oxygen at high altitude.

Ø § Siho Iyugiven, (27), 5/10/89

A Kurdish refugee died from burns at Harmondsworth detention centre. He had been detained pending his removal after political asylum was refused. He and his cell-mate went on hunger strike, barricaded themselves in and set bedding alight as a protest. Smoke detectors were not working, few fire extinguishers worked and there were no sprinklers. An inquest recorded a misadventure verdict.

Ø Kimpua Nsimba, (24), 15/6/90

A Zairean asylum seeker was found hanged in Harmondsworth detention centre in west London; where no one had spoken to him in over four days. An inquest recorded a suicide verdict.

§ Omasase Lumumba, (32), 8/10/91

The nephew of Patrice Lumumba, he was a Zairean asylum seeker who had undergone torture. Arrested in strange circumstances, detained under the Immigration Act and held for five days in a police station, he was then transferred to Pentonville prison while awaiting a decision on his asylum claim. He died of a heart attack after being restrained by six prison officers in Pentonville prison. An inquest found that he was ‘unlawfully killed using improper methods and excessive force in the process of control and restraint’.

# Panchadcharam Sahitharan, (28), 3/1/92

A Tamil refugee died in a gang attack in Newham, east London. Andrew Noble and Gary Hoskin were charged with murder and affray. The charges were later dropped against Noble and Hoskin was acquitted. The gang were thought to be responsible for attacks with baseball bats on seven Asians on one day.

# Ruhullah Aramesh, (24), 7/92

An Afghan refugee attacked by a gang in Thornton Heath, south London. Barry Hannon, Paul Hannon and Joseph Curtain were given life sentences for murder. One other was convicted of manslaughter on the grounds of diminished responsibility and three others were acquitted. Curtain was freed on appeal after serving three years.

§ James Segawa, (28), 28/8/92

An HIV positive Ugandan asylum seeker died of meningitis and tuberculosis at Mayday hospital, Croydon, after belated transfer from Belmarsh prison where officials had refused to believe he was ill.

Ø Turan Pekoz, (43), 16/3/93

A Turkish asylum seeker died after setting himself on fire at Quest House Immigration Office, Croydon. An inquest recorded a misadventure verdict.

# Saied Ahmed, (68), 14/4/93

A Somali refugee died from burns after an arson attack on his home in Oxford. Eleven other family members escaped.

# Ali Ibrahim, (21), 7/11/93

A Sudanese refugee was stabbed to death while he and two friends walked along Little Preston Street in Brighton. A man drinking a can of lager approached the group, then shouted racial abuse and stabbed Ali in the heart. Ian Leanay was sentenced to life for murder. A second man was acquitted after the jury failed to reach a verdict.

Ø § Joy Gardner, (40), 1/8/93

A Jamaican mother of one died after being arrested by ‘specialist’ officers from the Extradition Unit of the Met who used 13 feet of tape to gag her. The inquest was adjourned till the trial of the officers involved. They have been acquitted but no inquest has yet been held.

Ø Lejla Ibrahimovic, 1994

A Bosnian asylum seeker took an overdose of sleeping pills after a year-long struggle for her husband to be granted a visa to join her. The Home Office granted her husband a compassionate visa after her death to look after the couple’s two children.

 Four Romanian stowaways, 1/94

Four stowaways suffocated to death in a container in Felixstowe.

Ø Kwanele Siziba, (27), 27/4/94

A Zimbabwean woman fell 150 feet to her death, attempting to flee visiting officials she believed were immigration officers. In fact, it was bailiffs who called at the flat and were heard threatening to kick the door down. The inquest recorded a misadventure verdict.

Ø Joseph Nnalue, (31), 23/10/94

A Nigerian died after falling from a balcony in a flat in Stockwell – police and immigration officials were calling at his flat at the time, acting on a tip-off. An inquest ruled that the death was accidental.

Ø Zinaida Mitzofanova, (63) and Valentina Featherstone, (39), 2/95

A Latvian mother and daughter were found hanged in County Durham before they were due to appeal against a deportation order.

Ø Muttavel Vasanthan, (25), 25/8/95

A Sri Lankan immigration detainee was found hanged in a cell in Norwich prison. An inquest verdict recorded a suicide verdict.

Ø Bayeh Arefayne, (19), 22/10/95

A young Ethiopian man due to be deported, set fire to himself in a west London petrol station. He suffered 70 per cent burns to his body and died six days later.

Ø Djemal Flissa, (29), 28/10/95

An Algerian asylum seeker was deported by air ambulance, after spending 44 days on hunger strike. He was flown, allegedly tied to a stretcher, back to Algeria where he reportedly died.

 Unidentified person, 8/11/95

Died falling from a ferry in Harwich after asylum was refused.

Ø Noorjahan Begum, (35), 15/3/96

A Bangladeshi woman died after falling 30 feet from the balcony of the flat where she was living; two immigration officials were calling at the flat at the time. The inquest recorded an accidental death verdict.

Ø Mohammed Yaqoob, (49), 8/96

A Pakistani man, wishing to travel to the UK for medical treatment, was denied a visa for seven months, despite his family raising the necessary funds for a private operation. He died less than 48 hours after being granted a visa on compassionate grounds.

 Vijay Saini, (19), 10/96

An Indian died after freezing to death stowing away with his brother in a plane. Vijay fell from the wheel housing of the British Airways plane flying from Delhi into London Heathrow. His brother Pardeep, 23, miraculously survived the same journey and was found by baggage-handlers at Heathrow airport suffering from hypothermia. His application for political asylum was turned down on the basis of an interview held less than 24 hours after he arrived at Heathrow. He was later given compassionate leave to remain in the UK.

 Unidentified African boy, (12), 23/3/97

Crushed to death after stowing away in the wheel arch of a Boeing 747 travelling from Kenya to London. His body was found at Gatwick airport.

 Unidentified man, 8/2/98

Died after freezing to death in the undercarriage of a British Airways plane flying from Baku (Azerbaijan) to Gatwick airport.

Ø § Sofonias Alemsged, (22), 7/98

An Eritrean asylum seeker with psychological problems was found hanged in a Brixton prison cell; he had made previous attempt to take his own life. He died a few weeks before his appeal on his asylum claim was due to be held. An inquest recorded a misadventure verdict.

 Unidentified person, 8/98

A couple drinking in a pub in Richmond reported seeing a body tumble from a plane flying overhead (also near to where Mohammed Ayaz was found in June 2001). Police searched the local area but no body was found although police thought it possible the body fell in a reservoir.

Ø Mehretab Kidane, (28), 10/98

An Eritrean asylum seeker was so afraid of losing his asylum appeal that he hanged himself at his flat in Brixton on the final day of his appeal hearing in London. An inquest was told that he had arrived in the UK in 1995 and was granted temporary admission but was later refused refugee status. The coroner found that he took his own life.

# Farhan M Mire, (32), 12/98

A Somali asylum seeker kicked to death in the street by a white man after an argument with a woman who then shouted for help in Harrow, north London. A man was charged with murder in March 1999, but later released after the CPS decided that there was not enough evidence to prosecute. The CPS had questioned whether there was racial motivation in the case.

Ø § Lin Yan-Guang, (35), 12/98

A Chinese asylum seeker committed suicide in Warley hospital, Brentwood, Essex. He had been suffering from depression and was admitted to the hospital in September 1998 for assessment. At the time of his death he was under special observation. He had told a friend he was worried about the money his family in China had borrowed to send him to the UK.

 Unidentified man, 1/99

An Iraqi Kurdish man died attempting to smuggle himself to Dover clinging to the underside of a lorry. As it passed over ramps, he lost his grip and was crushed under its wheels.

 Unidentified man, 12/10/99

A stowaway died after being electrocuted trying to exit a freight train in a goods yard in Wembley. The man in his twenties is thought to have sewn himself into a canvas sided wagon in Milan which then travelled to the UK.

# Zardasht Draey, (19), 12/99

A Kurdish man, who fled Iraq in the 1991 Gulf war, was attacked in the early hours of the morning and found with serious injuries at a bus-stop in Fulham, west London. He died in hospital two days later as a result of serious head injuries. In June 2000, Christopher Peterkin was convicted of his murder.

Ø § Robertas Grabys, (49), 24/1/00

A Lithuanian asylum seeker was found hanged in Harmondsworth detention centre on the day he was due to be deported. A report into his death criticised the private company that was in charge of Harmondsworth at the time (Burns International). In April 2003, an internal Home Office inquiry found that the company running the centre did not have a formal policy to prevent suicides and that there was insufficient care. (His body was not found for over one hour as guards did not check the room. But he was known to suffer from a depressive illness.) An inquest recorded an open verdict.

 Unidentified woman, 9/4/00

An unidentified woman died after falling under the wheels of a lorry in St Leonard’s, Essex and later died in hospital. Four other stowaways on the lorry were arrested.

Ø Glynnis Cowley, (40), 4/00

A South African mother of three committed suicide in Liverpool after her asylum claim was refused. She had been arrested at Heathrow in June 1999 after being found in possession of cannabis and sentenced to eight months. She alleged that she had been kidnapped, raped and tortured in South Africa and then forced to act as a drugs courier. While in Holloway prison, her asylum claim was refused and, after her release, she launched an appeal but took her life before a decision was reached.

 58 people including 54 Chinese men – Yang Jiao Hua, Li Yong, Lin Zhao Hang, Lin Chen Xing, Sun Dao Xian, Cheng Kam Kwon, Lin Li Guang, Kuo Chien Ming, Xue You Jie, Cai Fang Quing, Ni Yan Hua, Lin Yi Hua, Gao Jun Wei, Zheng Bo Ying, Lin Guo Liang, Cao Xiang Ping, Chen Xing Zhong, He Chang Ming, Xue Di Di, Cao Xian Xin, Jiang Jan Ming, Ling Ming Gui, Jiang Bin, Lin De Bin, Chen Yi Hua, Li Zheng Guang, Ling Ming Kun, He Yu Yuan, Lin Tong Hui, Lin Tong Yong, Ke Yong Min, Ye Qi Ban, Dong Ti Di, Li Xaio Xiang, Lin Bin, Weng Rui Ping, Lin Fa Ming, Lin Bing, Lin Ming Hui, Lin Bin Jian, He Hua Shun, Yang Xin Xiaun, Lin Feng Di, Yao Zhong Ai, He Ming Qiang, Lin Xian Long, Chen Jin Tian, Lin Xin Chai, Shi Wen Jie, Ding Xiang You, You Long Zhong, Lin Xue Luan, Li Zhen Quan, Guo Ting Xing and 4 Chinese women – Lin Rul Zhen, Gao Yue Ru, Lin Guang, Ke Mei Zhu, 18/6/00

58 Chinese stowaways (from the Fujian province) were found dead in the back of a refrigerated lorry in Dover. Two survivors of the journey, who were found unconscious, were taken to hospital suffering from shock and dehydration. The stowaways died after the air vents on the lorry were closed as it was loaded onto a Dover bound ferry at Zeebrugge. In March 2001, the trial began of the Dutch lorry driver, 32-year-old Perry Wacker, who was accused of 58 counts of manslaughter and people smuggling; 29- year-old Ying Guo was also accused of conspiracy to smuggle people. Perry Wacker was found guilty and jailed for 14 years. Ying Guo was also found guilty and sentenced to six years. In May 2001, seven men in Holland were convicted of charges in relation to the deaths of the 58; two other men were acquitted. On 31 July 2002, Perry Wacker lost his appeal against the manslaughter convictions.

# Abdi Dorre, (31), 8/00

A Somali refugee died in hospital after being found with serious head injuries at the bottom of stairs at the Lounge night-club, Northampton. Hospital staff alerted the local police, but they did not bother to investigate thoroughly, assuming that Abdi’s death was an accident. It was only after the family pressured the police that arrests were made but, even then, the suspects were later released without charge. At the inquest in May 2001, without a jury, the coroner recorded an open verdict. The family launched a campaign to seek a proper investigation of the death and, in August 2002, two men were charged with his manslaughter. The CPS originally claimed there was insufficient evidence to bring charges against anyone.

 Unidentified man, (20s), 17/11/00

A man’s body was found at Eastern docks in Dover; it was thought that he had been run over by the lorry he was hiding in.

Ø Saeed Alaei, (26), 21/12/00

An Iranian asylum seeker, dispersed to Nelson, Lancashire, was found hanged after his asylum claim was rejected.

# Gian Singh Nagra, (37), 7/1/01

An asylum seeker was found with serious head injuries after a suspected racial attack at Elm Park tube station and later died in Old Church hospital, east London. The trial of his assailant in August 2001 heard that, on 7 January, a 14-year-old girl phoned 20-year-old Matthew Dorrian alleging that ‘an evil looking Asian’ had been behaving strangely and leering at her and her friends at Elm Park tube station. Despite there being no evidence of any indecency, Dorrian went down to the station, armed with a golf club and hit Gian with it across the face. Gian was found with massive head injuries and later died from blood loss. The Old Bailey jury were unable to reach a verdict on the charge of murder, but Dorrian admitted manslaughter.

Ø Shokrolah ‘Ramin’ Khaleghi, (27), 18/1/01

An Iranian asylum seeker, dispersed to Leicester, was found dead in the International Hotel, a hostel for asylum seekers, after his asylum claim was rejected. He had been a political prisoner in Iran, jailed for six years and tortured for refusing to serve in the Iranian army and affronting fundamentalist beliefs by shaving his facial hair. He took a drugs overdose one week after learning that his asylum claim had been rejected.

 Unidentified Iraqi man, (30s), 1/2/01

A man died attempting to jump 20 feet from a bridge on to a moving train heading for the UK through the Channel Tunnel. Another man survived the same jump but broke both legs; both men missed the train but were then hit by it.

 Tommy Klen Mayola, (19), 20/2/01

An asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), who had waited over two years for a decision, was found dead in the undercarriage of a US Airways plane in San Francisco. Police at Gatwick had arrested him earlier the same day as he attempted to gain access to another plane. He had been photographed, fingerprinted and then released on bail.

• Ionut Simionica, (22), 27/2/01

A Romanian migrant worker died when part of St Mary’s church, Marylebone, on which he was working, crushed him. The HSE investigated the incident and prosecuted two firms and an engineer under health and safety legislation. In February 2005, Southwark Crown Court heard that a structural engineer failed to address underpinning problems after rotten wood in foundations of the church was discovered. They were found guilty and fined £95,000 and £60,000 costs.

# Fetah Marku, (24), 24/3/01

A Kosovan asylum seeker was beaten and stabbed to death by a gang of men in Edgware, London. Fetah had been visiting from Hull and was celebrating his birthday with friends at the Oscar Wilde pub. A post mortem gave the cause of death as multiple injuries that included 29 stab wounds, a punctured lung, a fractured skull and internal bleeding. In June 2002, an Old Bailey jury found 33-yearold Richard Ellis guilty of Fetah’s murder. Ellis, who worked as a music promoter at the pub, claimed not to have known anyone else who took part in the attack on Fetah but the jury found that Ellis had ‘provided encouragement’ to the mob. After the conviction, the judge commented that it was unlikely that Ellis (a black man) was ‘solely responsible’.

 Mohammed Ayaz, (21), 14/6/01

A Pakistani man was found in a Richmond car park after dropping from the wheel arch of a British Airways plane flying from Bahrain to Heathrow. Two passengers on the flight saw Mohammed running across the runway and under the plane just before it took off and told crew but the flight takeoff could not be aborted. Mohammed was originally from Pakistan but was working in Bahrain as a labourer. An inquest recorded a misadventure verdict.

# Firsat Dag, (22), 5/8/01

A Kurdish asylum seeker, dispersed to the notorious Sighthill estate in Glasgow, was stabbed to death in a racist attack. Scott Burrell, 26, was charged with Firsat’s murder and accused of attempting to murder a German tourist on the same day. In December 2001, Burrell was sentenced to serve a minimum of 14 years for a ‘shameful, cowardly and unprovoked attack’. In August 2003, the compensation awarded to Firsat’s family was halved because Firsat allegedly used a false name on his asylum application.

 Unidentified Kosovan man, (20s), 20/8/01

A Kosovan died after jumping into the sea while being deported. He had been found with another man on a ferry travelling from Ostend to Dover. After telling crew they intended to claim asylum once they reached the UK, they were detained on board and not allowed to leave the ferry. They were to be taken to Calais to be disembarked when one broke free from security guards and jumped into the sea, two miles from Dover. He was found after 20 minutes and attempts were made to resuscitate him but, on arrival at hospital, he was pronounced dead.

Ø Nasser Ahmed, (35), 21/8/01

An Eritrean asylum seeker was found hanged at his flat in Nelson, Lancashire, shortly after his asylum claim was rejected. A worker who helped Mr Ahmed at a drop-in centre for asylum seekers said, ‘We do know that he had received a letter from the Home Office… there are hints that that was what pushed him over the edge.’

• Zhang Guo Hua, 10/01

A Chinese migrant worker died after working all weekend at a factory in Hartlepool. He worked at stamping the ‘Samsung’ logo on microwaves for 72 hours a week at a factory with up to 80 other Chinese men. The men often worked 100-hour weeks and for over 24 hours at a time. A post mortem found that he died from a subarachnoid haemorrhage.

 Omid Jamil Ali, (21), 18/10/01

An Iraqi, hoping to enter the UK through the Channel Tunnel, leapt onto a moving train from a bridge in France. In the fall he injured himself severely. But the train reportedly did not stop till it arrived in England. Only then was Omid retrieved and taken to hospital, where he was pronounced dead. His body remained in a morgue till September 2004, when campaigners raised the £3,100 needed to send Omid’s body back to Iraq to be buried by his family.

Ø Joseph Crentsil, (39), 25/11/01

A Ghanaian asylum seeker died after falling from a third floor window of a flat in Streatham when two immigration and two police officers were questioning five other men at the flat. An inquest recorded an accidental death verdict. (Read IRR News article: ‘Accidental death’ during immigration raid, says inquest jury)

Ø Chijioke Ekengwu (aka John Paul), (9), 20/12/01

A Nigerian boy, suffering from Hodgkin’s lymphoma, died the day before he was due to fly to the UK for treatment. Celine Ekengwu, the young boy’s aunt, had saved £13,000 to pay for it. She won an appeal on 23 October 2001 against a decision refusing John Paul a visa to travel to the UK for treatment. The Foreign Office began an investigation into why it had taken the High Commission in Lagos, Nigeria, two months, after the decision, to issue a visa.

Related links

See also the IRR’s reports: Driven to desperate measures (pdf file, 401kb) and Driven to desperate measures: 2006-2010 (pdf file, 432 kb)

IRR Research: Roll call of deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, 1989-2001

IRR Research: Roll call of deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, 2002-2004

IRR Research: Roll call of deaths of asylum seekers and undocumented migrants, 2005 onwards

National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns


Bail for Immigration Detainees

Barbed Wire Britain

Prisons and Probation Service Ombudsman fatal accident investigation reports

KEY:  Stowaway death; Ø Self-harm/prevention of medical treatment/destitution; § In detention; • working (illegally) accident; # racist attack.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.


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