[ 22. Jun 2007 ]

Nigerian dies during deportation from Spain

Below we reproduce a translation of an article that appeared in El Pais (11 June 2007) on the death of Osamuyia Aikpitanhi.


Osamuyia Aikpitanhi, a 23-year-old undocumented Nigerian, died on Saturday while being deported to Nigeria on an Iberia flight that had to turn round and land, with the immigrant already dead, in Alicante. Osamuyia, who had eleven convictions for assault in Spain and one for manslaughter in Nigeria, was being taken to Lagos under a deportation order. His family accuse the police who were guarding him of maltreating him. Police sources said last night that he could have died by swallowing the bandage with which he had been gagged to prevent him biting the officers.

The plane was carrying ninety-seven passengers, including four Nigerians ordered to be deported from Spain. According to police sources, when the officers realised that Osamuyia had died, they informed the captain, who turned back - the plane had been in the air for an hour - and requested permission to land in Alicante, which it did at 18.30.

This was not the first attempt by police to deport the Nigerian immigrant, who had been in Spain for four years and had no papers. On two previous occasions officers had to abandon their attempt to deport him, because of the physical resistance he put up. The judge in Elche who has taken charge of the case has not declared it to be sub judice. Police sources state that an investigation has been opened, but rule out the possibility that the man was assaulted. Their hypothesis, pending the results of the autopsy, is that Osamuyia suffered a heart attack through over-exertion while resisting boarding the plane or while struggling once he had boarded.

However, other police officers and a spokesperson of the Sindicato Unificado de Policía (Police Union) explained last night to this paper that the immigrant could have died through swallowing the bandage and sticking-plaster with which he had been gagged. Immigration police officers who were guarding him sealed his mouth because he had previously seriously bitten one of them.

His family have a different version of events. The dead man's brother, Chester, said yesterday that he was convinced that the police were responsible for Osamuyia's death. 'He was healthy, he didn't have any illness. It was the police who crushed him to death', he charged. Chester said he had been in touch with another Nigerian who was deported on the same flight - he is now in Lagos - and who saw how they repeatedly beat Osamuyia before and after boarding. 'He has promised to send me a week from now a video showing what happened', he said.

Like a dog

Chester states that his brother was bound hand and foot, and that adhesive tape was put on his mouth before he boarded the plane, when he was already struggling. He also believes that the officers beat him. 'They killed him like a dog', he said bitterly yesterday, after lodging a formal complaint at the police station. Osamuyia had been in Spain for four years, living in Torrejón de Ardoz (Madrid) before being arrested. 'To begin with, he lived with me in Alcalá de Henares, but when I got married he had to find another place'. Chester will go to Alicante today take charge of his brother's body and wants to be present with his lawyer when the autopsy is carried out.

According to a friend of the dead man, currently in the Centro de Internamiento de Emigrantes de Carabanchel (Madrid) [deportation centre], where Osamuyia was awaiting expulsion, officers had twice attempted to deport him: on Monday and Wednesday last week. But he resisted, because on Sunday it would be forty days since his deportation order was issued, and he believed that if he managed to stay in Spain till then, he could not be deported.

After the plane landed in Alicante, Iberia had to make arrangements for passengers to continue their flight to Nigeria. The plane has to stay at Alicante airport until the duty judge authorises the removal of the body, reported Efe. This is the first time an undocumented immigrant has died on a plane while being deported from Spain.

Normally, undocumented immigrants being deported by air are taken to the plane in plastic handcuffs, adjusted by slip-knots. After take-off, if there are no signs of violence, they are allowed to make the journey with their hands free. In theory, every immigrant has to be accompanied throughout the journey by two police officers.

This :: translation of an article that appeared in El Pais on 11. Jun 2007 was published first on 14. Jun 2007 by :: IRR News