A man wrongly accused of being an illegal immigrant may have been singled out just for being black, an Equality Commission spokeswoman has said.
Frank Kakopa has been paid Â£7,500 after the Immigration Service wrongly held him in prison for two days. Mr. Kakopa, originally from Zimbabwe, was on a short break with his wife and young children in 2005, when he was stopped at Belfast City Airport. He had proof he lived in England but was still strip-searched and jailed. His work manager had also confirmed both his legal residency and employment position.
Eileen Lavery from the Equality Commission said she had concerns over why Mr. Kakopa was singled out and held in Maghaberry Prison near Lisburn, as he had “an enormous amount of documentation”. “Why pick on him? Other than I think because he is black,” she said.
Mr. Kakopa, a structural engineer, said the experience still haunted him. His family were left at the airport and Mr. Kakopa said he had no idea what had happened to them. “They wouldn’t allow me to make phone calls – I was actually detached from the world,” he said. “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.” The Equality Commission took on the case alleging false imprisonment and discrimination.
In an out-of-court settlement, the Immigration Service admitted false imprisonment and apologized to Mr Kakopa and his family. They also agreed to discuss their practices with the Equality Commission. The Home Office said in a statement that it did not comment on individual cases.