Britain close to deal on deporting Algerians


BRITAIN: Britain is close to reaching an agreement with Algeria that would allow the UK authorities to send back Algerian nationals believed to pose a threat to national security.

The British government last week ordered the detention, pending deportation, of 10 men suspected of having terrorist links.

Gareth Peirce, a human rights solicitor, said she was representing seven clients detained last Thursday who the UK government intends to deport to their country of origin, six of whom were Algerians.

The men were taken into detention because the UK government believes it can demonstrate their safety would not be endangered on their return to their country of origin. The UK is close to obtaining a guarantee from the Algerian government that the men would not be harmed or detained without trial upon their return.

A similar agreement was reached last week with Jordan, and Britain wants pledges from eight other, mostly north African, countries.

A British official said there were "very serious discussions" between the UK and Algeria, with the prime minister's office involved, but it was unlikely the two countries would reach a deal this week.

Human rights groups in the Middle East fear the agreement reached between Britain and Jordan could become a model for the region. Jordan gave assurances that it would respect international conventions regulating the treatment of prisoners and that deportees would be subject to a fair trial and could be visited and supervised by a neutral party for a period of three years after their arrival.

Egyptian officials said negotiations between London and Cairo over an extradition agreement had been taking place for over a year but had stalled over UK conditions. Among them, said the officials, were Britain's demand that the death penalty be waived in cases of deportees sentenced in absentia in Egyptian courts.

Meanwhile, the independent watchdog on anti-terror measures said yesterday that Tony Blair was right to deport foreign Islamic extremists.

Human rights groups have condemned agreements guaranteeing the safety of those returned to their home countries as not worth the paper they are written on.

But Lord Carlile, the Liberal Democrat peer appointed to review anti-terror measures, said that was a "counsel of despair".

"The Government is right to try and reach bilateral agreements with other countries to ensure that people who are present and whose presence is not conducive to the public good can be removed," he told BBC News 24. - (Financial Times; additional reporting PA)