Picked On ‘Because He Is Black’

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A black tourist has been paid £7,500 for wrongful imprisonment and discrimination in Maghaberry jail, near Belfast.

Frank Kakopa who is originally from Zimbabwe was accused of being an illegal immigrant while on holiday in Northern Ireland.

The Immigration Service wrongly detained him in Maghaberry jail.

Kakopa, a structural engineer who lives in England, was on a short break with his wife and young children in 2005, when he was stopped at Belfast City Airport.

As a result of this incident the Equality Commission for Northern Ireland assisted him in taking County Court proceedings against the Immigration Service, alleging false imprisonment and discrimination contrary to the Race Relations (Northern Ireland) Order.

The case was settled prior to being heard at Belfast County Court and the Immigration Service agreed to pay Kakopa £7,500 together with costs.

It admitted that he was unlawfully and falsely imprisoned between 9am on 20 August and 2pm on 22 August 2005 and unreservedly apologised to Kakopa and his family for this and for the significant injury to his feelings and the hurt and distress he suffered.

Despite showing documentation that clearly stated that he lived and worked in England, he was taken to prison. He was strip-searched and held for two days.

All this had happened despite his manager in England confirming both his legal residency and employment position.

Kakopa said of his visit to the north: ‘They wouldn’t allow me to make phone calls – I was actually detached from the world.

‘I did not know where my kids were taken to.

‘It is still difficult to believe that what was supposed to be a relaxing break for my family turned out to be our worst nightmare.

‘I was locked up with convicted criminals, having committed no crime, while my wife and young children were left abandoned at the airport of a strange country worrying about where I was and how I was being treated!

‘I am a structural engineer, working and living in Northern England (Warrington and Liverpool) and wished only to enjoy a few days away with my family.

‘It is deplorable that in this day and age that incidents such as this are allowed to happen.

‘I was wronged and my family suffered as a result of this treatment.

‘It was therefore necessary to fight for justice both for my own peace of mind and to ensure that no other family experience similar treatment in the future.

‘The whole episode will have a lasting negative effect on my family for many years to come.’

The Equality Commission took on his case alleging false imprisonment and discrimination.

Equality Commission Head of Strategic Enforcement Eileen Lavery said she had concerns over why Kakopa was singled out.

She stressed: ‘He had an enormous amount of documentation. Why pick on him? Other than I think because he is black.’

The Home Office would not comment.