A government blunder allowed a convicted rapist to win the right to get married in Britain – and avoid deportation by just two hours.
Alphonse Semo was granted asylum when he arrived from the Democratic Republic of Congo but brutally raped a woman, dumping his victim on a rubbish tip after he had ‘finished with her’.
He was ordered to be deported at the end of his eight-year prison sentence and was two hours from being put on a plane back to Africa earlier this week.
Alphonse Semo was being held at Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre in Uxbridge, west London, pending his deportation
But a ‘very reluctant’ High Court judge ruled Semo be allowed to marry his girlfriend – another refugee from the Congo who became a German national – because of a Home Office mistake.
Officials had initially agreed to give the 53-year-old rapist a ‘ certificate of approval’ to wed, then changed their mind.
Mr Justice Collins said the Home Office ‘really cannot be allowed to play hot and cold’ so decided Semo could stay for the ceremony.
After getting married, father of five Semo will fight to remain in the UK indefinitely as his bride-to-be is an EU citizen legally living here.
The disclosure that the Home Office initially provided Semo with the legal grounds to resist deportation sparked outrage yesterday.
Immigration minister Phil Woolas refused to criticise the judge over the ruling but added that his constituents would be ‘concerned’
Tory immigration spokesman Damian Green said: ‘The Home Secretary needs to explain urgently what happened in this case, with the Home Office seeming to contradict itself.
‘Many people will be rightly angry that a convicted rapist can find ways to stay in this country when he has no right to be here.’
Liberal Democrat home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said: ‘The Home Secretary should have had Semo on the first flight out after his release.
‘Until the left hand knows what the right is doing at the Home Office, we will not have a migration system fit for purpose.
It’s time to end the mismanagement.’ Semo was sentenced to eight years imprisonment in 2002 for raping and assaulting a 38-year- old woman in Catford, South-East London.
The trial judge said of the rape: ‘You added to that the degradation of throwing her on a rubbish tip once you had finished with her.’
His refugee status was revoked in June 2008 and the Home Secretary made a deportation order but since then Semo has waged a series of legal battles to remain here, the most recent of which centred on his wedding plans.
The rapist won his fight at the High Court late on Monday afternoon when Mr Justice Collins said it was difficult to have any sympathy for the rapist but ruled that he must be allowed to stay.
The judge said the Home Office had at first agreed to let Semo, from Deptford, South-East London, get married to his long-term partner Bunsana Kalonji.
But the wedding was effectively cancelled by a later decision ‘by the same Home Office – no doubt by a different department’. The judge said: ‘With considerable reluctance, I have to say he must be allowed to marry. That means there will be a prohibition against removing him.’
He added: ‘Once a certificate of approval to marry has been issued, under Home Office guidance there was an obligation to facilitate it.’
Immigration minister Phil Woolas said: ‘I’m disappointed the courts have temporarily stopped us sending this individual home, and we will now seek to remove him from Britain as soon as his marriage has taken place.
‘We are determined to deport foreign criminals who have committed a serious crime in the UK – that’s why last year we removed more than 5,400 lawbreakers.
‘It is not my place to criticise judges and I am not going to. The Home Office decision was based on legal advice on what was likely to happen.’
Semo was due to marry yesterday but the wedding was postponed until next month.