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Romani asylum seeker from the Czech Republic dies in Canadian custody

Toronto, 30.12.2009 14:25, (ROMEA)

Jan Szamko, a 31-year-old Romani man from the Czech Republic, died on 8 December in detention in Canada under circumstances that have yet to be explained. The unsuccessful asylum seeker had been scheduled to return to the Czech Republic two days prior to his death. The case was reported in today’s edition of the Czech daily Právo.

According to the Toronto Star web server, like all other unsuccessful asylum seekers Szamko was placed in custody prior to deportation. He was scheduled to return to the Czech Republic on 6 December, but on 9 December Canadian police announced to Szamko’s widow Naděžda Peterová and their nine-year-old daughter that they had found Szamko dead in his cell at the detention center.

The Toronto Star quotes Szamko’s brother-in-law Andrej Balog as saying a representative of the Czech Consulate contacted him to say an incident had occurred and he needed to go to the airport to calm Szamko down, as he had gone haywire. Later the consulate stated the official cause of Szamko’s death was heart failure. "We were never informed that he had not left Canada. We have not been able to find anything out. (...) We do not know what he died of. We do not believe he died of heart failure," Balog says.

The Toronto Star says Canadian authorities are refusing to comment further. Officials have said an investigation will be initiated should it be determined that Szamko did not die of natural causes.

"The body of the deceased should be returned to the Czech Republic as soon as possible. Canada is partially covering the transport costs,” Právo quotes Jiří Beneš of the Czech Foreign Ministry’s press department as saying.

The Toronto Star reports that Peterová and her husband traveled to Canada separately last year and requested asylum. In October, Szamko is said to have canceled his request because he wanted to return to the Czech Republic to visit his mother, who had taken ill. He subsequently changed his mind and reapplied for asylum, but his second asylum request was rejected. Peterová said she last saw her husband at the start of December when she accompanied him to a meeting with Canadian police and immigration officials.

ČTK, Gwendolyn Albert, ROMEA, ROMEA, ČTK, translated by Gwendolyn Albert
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