Blind Ghanaian student dragged out of Oxford Union debate gets ‘thousands of pounds’ in compensation

Francis Akhalbey Sep 7, 2020 at 12:00pm

September 07, 2020 at 12:00 pm | News

Francis Akhalbey

Francis Akhalbey | Content Manager

September 07, 2020 at 12:00 pm | News

The Oxford Union has compensated Ebenezer Azamati after he was forcefully dragged out of a debate chamber in 2019 -- Left Photo: Facebook | Right Photo: Oxford University Africa Society (Facebook)

Ebenezer Azamati, the blind postgraduate student from Ghana who was forcefully dragged out of the Oxford Union debate chamber last year, has been compensated, the union announced in a statement.

The October 17 incident was captured by a participant in the hall showing an officer pulling Azamati out of his seat, angering the Oxford University Africa Society (OUAS), which described the whole scenario as “violent, unjust, inhumane and shameful.”

Azamati, who was 25 at the time of the incident, arrived early at the Oxford Union on the aforementioned date to reserve a seat as he was worried there were no special provisions for disabled students. According to multiple reports, Azamati placed a book on one of the seats near the entrance to the chamber to reserve it and returned to his college for dinner.

When he returned later, accompanied by a friend and sat down, officials refused his attendance and were seen manhandling him out of his seat. In the aftermath of the incident, Azamati’s union membership was suspended for two terms and the union’s president, Brendan McGrath, subsequently called a disciplinary committee meeting. McGrath alleged that Azamati had behaved violently by thrusting an arm out and using aggressive hand gestures as he was being removed from his seat.

The charges against Azamati were, however, dropped following mounting pressure and McGrath apologized “unreservedly” for the distress and damage he had caused the blind Ghanaian student. In the statement, the union admitted the “disciplinary proceedings were wrongly brought against him.”

“We also accept that the allegations of dishonesty and violence made against Mr Azamati by the Union have caused acute distress to Mr Azamati and serious harm to his reputation. We accept that those allegations are wholly unfounded and untrue, and we apologise for making the statements that contained them,” the union said.

“What happened to Mr Azamati was fundamentally wrong. We apologise to him unreservedly and have made a compensatory payment to him in recognition of this. We must ensure that we become an institution in which such an incident can never recur. We are committed to that change.”

Though the compensatory amount wasn’t stated, MailOnline reports it was “several thousands of pounds.”

Besides the compensation, the union also announced they held discussions with Azamati and his representatives and they arrived at a decision to “commission an independent Equality and Access Review to be undertaken by two specialist lawyers.”

“They will closely examine our rules, policies, procedures, practices, staff roles and responsibilities and training requirements to identify any changes that are legally required, otherwise necessary, or desirable. The Review will seek the input of interested persons and produce a report with recommendations. The Review Report will be published in the interests of full transparency. We will also seek comments on what is recommended and will then make decisions on how to implement necessary changes,” the union said.

Speaking to the Sunday Times following the incident last year, Azamati said he felt “unwelcome” in Britain.

“In being publicly removed from the Oxford Union Society made me feel unwelcome in the Union, Oxford, and even the country. I felt that I was treated as not being human enough to deserve justice and fair treatment,” he said.

Most viewed

Conversations

Must Read