Autopsy fails to find cause of death of Nigerian deportee

The preliminary results of an autopsy on a Nigerian asylum seeker, who died while awaiting deportation, has failed to determine the cause of death.

This content was published on May 2, 2001 - 14:58

The autopsy did, however, reveal that the body of the 27-year-old African man was free from any marks which would suggest death was caused by strangulation or other injuries.

Further tests are to be conducted to determine the precise cause of death.

An investigation into the incident was launched on Tuesday following the death of the man while he was awaiting deportation.

Police said that shortly before he died, the Nigerian was restrained after violently resisting attempts to transport him from a detention centre in canton Valais to Zurich.

In a statement on Tuesday, cantonal police said the man, who had sought asylum in Switzerland, had had handcuffs fastened behind his back after he resisted an attempt to transfer him to Zurich airport, where he was due to be put on a flight out of the country with other African deportees. They said he had not been gagged.

"He just lashed out. He bit one officer and scratched another," a spokesman said.

He said the asylum-seeker was conscious as the officers were putting the handcuffs on him, but when they tried to lift him, they realised he had stopped breathing.

For 45 minutes, police, doctors and paramedics tried unsuccessfully to resuscitate him.

The police statement said the man had been in custody awaiting deportation for several months, after being detained for drugs' offences. The Cantonal Foreigners' Service said the man, who has not been named, had been disruptive during his detention, but he had shown no signs of illness.

The authorities are investigating a similar case, which occurred in March 1999, when a Palestinian deportee suffocated after being bound and gagged during his deportation from Zurich Airport.

As a result of that death, the use of tape to cover the mouth or any interference with the airways has been banned.

According to the Federal Refugee Office, this is the first such incident since the death of the Palestinian.

swissinfo with agencies

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