It was the stuff of nightmares, especially as it happened to someone so vulnerable.
A 30-year-old British citizen with schizophrenia was taken into custody and flown by immigration officers to a foreign country where he had no connections and was allegedly beaten up because he could not speak the language and could not make himself heard.
In what would be a comedy of errors if its consequences were not so serious, Tula Miah, a British citizen of Bangladeshi origin, was mistaken by immigration officers for Bilal Ahmad, a failed Pakistani asylum seeker and absconder, even though Miah spoke no Pakistani languages and was two inches taller and three years older than Ahmad.
On Monday the high court in London will hear his claim for tens of thousands of pounds in damages from the Home Office for false imprisonment and trespass to the person.
Miah, from south London, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in his teens. He was initially picked up by police on March 21 2001 in the Strand, central London, after someone reported him acting strangely.
The day before he had returned from a family trip to Saudi Arabia and was beginning to show psychotic symptoms. His family, who believed he had stopped taking his medication while abroad, were trying to persuade him to go back on it when he walked out of the house.
He was unshaven and dressed in a black blazer over a full-length Arab-style outfit, with a headscarf over his face. His worried family reported him missing and appeals were broadcast on TV and radio.
He admits he gave police a false name when he was picked up because he was afraid he would be sent to a psychiatric hospital, where he had been confined in the past. But he says he knows no one with the name Bilal Ahmad and insists that name was first used by police, who had contacted the immigration authorities.
Nor, he says, did he give January 1 1974 (Ahmad's birthdate) as his date of birth. Miah was born in April 1971.
Immigration authorities faxed through a photocopy of Ahmad's photograph. The police weren't sure they had their man, so the Home Office faxed the snap again.
The police were then "90% certain" they had the right man. No further attempts at identification were made, even though the custody record shows that Miah had a bank card in his real name.
No fingerprints, which could have shown he was the wrong person, were taken, although his lawyers say a note on the Home Office file read: "There appears to be some doubt that the person in custody is actually our subject."
A 15-minute examination by a doctor found "nil relevant medical history" and "nil overt evidence of mental illness". The doctor noted, however, that he "appears to have a degree of underlying educational limitation".
On March 25, without warning, Miah was taken to a plane and flown to Pakistan. On arrival in Islamabad he had to be forcibly removed from the plane because he was so scared. While there, he says, he was held in chains and beaten - partly because he angered officials by being unable to communicate with them.
The next day the Pakistani authorities contacted the Home Office. They did not believe the man they had was a Pakistani national and asked what documentation officials had on file. They were told there was none, according to papers filed at the high court. Three days later the Home Office faxed through the photocopied photograph.
On April 4 the Pakistani authorities put Miah on a plane to the UK. He arrived showing signs of "severe mental distress", according to the court papers. He had tried to cut his wrists, had suffered significant weight loss and was exhibiting signs of severe psychosis.
He was detained at Ashford hospital, Kent, on April 5 and two days later released back to immigration officers who, say his lawyers, gave him £5 and left him at Terminal 4 at Heathrow. On April 8 he phoned his family.
In its written defence, the Home Office denies Miah was falsely imprisoned because there were reasonable grounds for believing he was Ahmad. It insists immigration officers acted in good faith and denies any racist motive.
The Home Office said it was unable to comment yesterday in light of the "ongoing legal proceedings".
Sunday, 8 June 2008