Council of State suspends deportation order

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The Council of State has ruled that Abu Kurke Kebato, a 25-year-old Ethiopian refugee, will not be forced to leave the Netherlands for the time being. The Council of State suspended the deportation order.

Immigration Minister Gerd Leers wanted to deport Kebato to Italy on 5 April because that is where he originally entered Europe. Kebato's lawyer Marq Wijngaarden appealed to the Council of State to halt the deportation.

As further investigation is necessary in order to issue a ruling on the appeal, the council has suspended the deportation until a decision has been reached. The Council of State expects to deliver a judgement before the end of the year.

The 25-year-old Ethiopian is one of nine people who survived a perilous sea voyage last March. Along with 72 other men, women and children, Kebato fled the fighting in Libya in an overcrowded rubber dinghy.

Two days after the refugees set sail, they ran out of petrol. The boat was stranded in the Mediterranean between Libya and the Italian island of Lampedusa. The overcrowded boat was seen by several ships and a helicopter but no one went to the aid of the refugees. An investigation by the Council of Europe, which was published last week, slammed Western countries for failing to come to the aid of the refugees.

NATO has been asked to explain why the helicopter and a number of ships, all of them sailing under military orders, also failed to rescue the refugees. Kebato managed to stay alive by drinking his own urine and eating toothpaste but 63 of his fellow refugees died.

After leaving Lampedusa, Kebato eventually made his way to the Netherlands and requested asylum. He was arrested last week and has been threatened with deportation. Human rights organisations say Kebato should be granted refugee status in the Netherlands on humanitarian grounds.