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Detainee's death for son brings calls for inquiry


THE CASE of an asylum-seeker who killed himself last week so that his son could stay at school in Britain demands a full inquiry, says a Yorkshire vicar, backed by his bishop and MP.

Manuel Bravo, who was 35, and his 13-year-old son Antonio, originally from Angola, were arrested on Wednesday of last week at their home in Leeds and taken to Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire. That night Mr Bravo hanged himself in a stairwell, believing that Antonio would not be deported from Britain alone. Reports said that he left a note to Antonio, telling him to be brave and to do well at school.

The Home Office indicated that Antonio is unlikely to be deported before his 18th birthday, and will then be able to apply for asylum, according to reports on Saturday.

The Revd Alistair Kaye, Vicar of Christ Church, Upper Armley, in Leeds, said on Wednesday that the arrest was unlawful and that there should be a full inquiry into the handling of the case.

Mr Bravo and his son had attended Christ Church for two years, and Antonio was active in the youth group. He attended West Leeds High School.

In Angola, Mr Bravo had led a democratic party opposed to the government. The family, including Mr Bravo's wife and younger son, fled to Britain in 2001 after Mr Bravo's parents were murdered and his sister was raped. Mrs Bravo tried to return with her younger child to look after family members, but again they were forced to flee and are living elsewhere in Africa.

Mr Kaye said that Mr Bravo had originally been refused asylum, but last year had appealed. "He was told that he would hear within a set time whether he would be allowed to stay, and despite constant calls and letters - we have a file here of them - we heard nothing. Then he was suddenly arrested. Ironically, the morning after he killed himself, I received a letter from the Home Office saying they did not discuss individual cases."

John Battle, the MP for Leeds West, said on Wednesday that "questions need to be answered" in the case of Manuel Bravo. For several years Mr Battle had campaigned for proper suicide watch at Armley Prison in his constituency, and conditions had improved, he said; he would now like to know what procedures were in place at detention centres.

He said that it was not clear whether Mr Bravo had received all the correct notification from the Home Office. "In some cases this can be done through the solicitor, but sometimes letters genuinely do not get through."

It was very important that social services should allow Antonio to settle in Leeds with a foster family while his future was sorted out, said Mr Battle. "His mother is still alive somewhere in Africa, and that all needs to be looked at properly."

A Home Office spokesman said on Wednesday that the Prisons and Probations Ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, would carry out an independent investigation into Manuel Bravo's death.

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