The extraordinary life and death of David/Sonia Burgess

From the Guardian: “Last October, detectives were called to investigate the death of a woman under a London tube train. But as they traced her final moments, they discovered that she was, in fact, David Burgess, one of the most brilliant immigration lawyers of his generation. Here, Burgess’s family and friends tell, for the first time, the complicated story of the loving father, brilliant colleague, sensitive woman and courageous person they knew.

In 1987, Burgess acted on behalf of a group of 52 Sri Lankan Tamil asylum seekers who were refused entry at the UK border and threatened with deportation. In an article written after his death, Frances Webber, then a junior barrister, remembers being asked by Burgess “to run across to the High Court to get an injunction to prevent [their] removal… When I say ‘run’, I mean it literally – immigration officials were escorting the Tamils to the plane, and they, hearing of David’s efforts, decided to help by stripping off on the tarmac. We got our injunction – but eventually the men’s judicial review claims were rejected and they were sent back to Sri Lanka. David didn’t give up.”

At the time, refugees had no right to appeal against deportation before being sent back to their native country, but Burgess refused to take no for an answer. He travelled to Sri Lanka at the firm’s expense to gather evidence of the men’s maltreatment, eventually winning them the right to return to the UK. The law was changed as a result of the case, to ensure asylum seekers could appeal against refusal of asylum before being sent home. (More here)

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This entry was posted in gender & sexuality, human rights, international justice, Movement, People, Stories, UK. Bookmark the permalink.

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