STOP CHRISTMAS DAY DEPORTATION TO THE CONGO: OPEN LETTER TO IMMIGRATION MINISTER CAROLINE NOKES

by Jonathan Lee

You can sign the petition to request Otis Bolamu’s case be reviewed and his deportation halted here!

Immigration Minister

Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP
Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF

Dear Rt Hon Caroline Nokes MP,

I am writing to you to regarding the imminent administrative removal (or forced deportation) of a Swansea resident, and Congolese National, Otis Bolamu (Home Office reference number: HO-B1980997).

Otis was seized from his home at 4am on Thursday 19th December and is now being held in Brook House Immigration Removal Centre at Gatwick where he awaits a chartered flight to deport him to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on Christmas Day. He is an engaged member of the community in Swansea, has many friends, and has volunteered with Oxfam and Hay Festival since arriving in the UK earlier this year when he formally requested asylum.

Otis was forced to flee his country after opposing the authoritarian government led by Joseph Kabila. He was working for the electoral commission before being put in prison for refusing to participate in voter card fraud. He was helped to escape the country and fears returning to an environment in which political activists are being arrested, tortured and murdered by the security services as part of a pre-elections government crackdown. As Otis said, “Congo is not good right now, they are killing innocent people.”

On arriving in the UK in February, Otis immediately tried to claim asylum seeker status. In August, his claim was denied and an appeal from his solicitor refused by the court.

Before being moved to the detention centre in Gatwick, Otis was held in a police cell in Bridgend where he described his arrest:

They beat at the door, I opened it, and then they arrested me.

I think they want to deport me, but they’re not saying anything.

I’m very fearful and not in a good place. I don’t know if I’m going to stay here or go to London.

Otis has a right to be given information explaining his rights and his situation in his own language upon administrative removal. If this has not happened yet, it must be provided immediately.

Furthermore I urge you to examine the Home Office guidance on the judgment of BM & others in which it is stated that persons who are believed to be a part of the political opposition movement by the authorities of the DRC are at risk upon their return to the country. Otis’ previous imprisonment by the authorities and his stated support for the opposition party means he is likely to be a person of interest to the DRC authorities. Upon return to his country, it is highly possible that his right to not “be subjected to torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”, enshrined under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (which is UK law under the Human Rights Act) will be infringed.

I believe Otis’ deportation unlawful on the grounds that his safety is danger if he is returned to the DRC. I further urge you to consider the report by the UK-based organisation Freedom from Torture which documents the extensive use of torture in detention in Congo, based on forensic documentation and psychological assessments of Congolese asylum seekers in the United Kingdom.

The favourite to succeed as leader in the upcoming elections, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, was sanctioned by the European Union last year for violating the human rights of political dissenters whom he had imprisoned and tortured during his time as Interior Minister. He has been hand-picked by the current leader Joseph Kabila to succeed him as President.

I urge you to consider the UK Government’s own advice for British Citizens travelling to the DRC, which advises any citizens to leave the country before the elections which are expected to see violence across the country. Indeed, British Embassy staff have already been withdrawn from the country on the 17th December in order to ensure their safety.

Under these circumstances, there is a credible danger to Otis’ physical safety as an opposition supporter known to the authorities if he is returned to the DRC amidst this period of political instability. I believe it is not unreasonable to request that you to delay his administrative removal until at least after the DRC elections, to assess whether his safety will be compromised by returning him to the country.

Yours sincerely,

Jonathan Lee

 


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