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Stop deportations to DR Congo

Home Office cannot justify punishing children by leaving them fatherless
10th February 2009: Since the British courts rejected a recent Country Guidance case that presented a wealth of evidence that asylum seekers forcibly returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo risk being persecuted by the authorities, the Home Office has stepped up its attempts to deport people to that country.

stopdrcdeportation1.pngIt appears that despite reports from reliable sources such as Human Rights Watch that people perceived as being in opposition to the regime of Joseph Kabila are routinely arrested, tortured and extrajudicially executed, particularly in the Kinshasa, Bas-Congo and Equateur areas, the British Home Office is intent on sending vulnerable individuals who will be seen as political dissidents back to the country they once fled for fear of their lives.

The Congolese in the UK have a track record unmatched in any other European country of demonstrating and campaigning vociferously against the Kabila regime. As recently as 30th January 2009 a contingent of Congolese people in London stood facing the Rwandan Embassy protesting loudly about complicity between Joseph Kabila and Paul Kagame and the Rwandan occupation of Eastern Congo. In the course of the event, they set fire to the Rwandan and French flags.

It is alleged that a delegation of government officials from Kinshasa has signed an agreement with their British counterparts that asylum seekers sent back to the DRC will not be harmed, thereby giving them the green light to meet their target of repatriating 4,000 Congolese.

It is also alleged that a charter flight is being prepared, possibly in the next couple of weeks. If true, it may coincide with the date of the last charter flight deportation of more than 30 men, women and children on 26th February 2007, most of whom have since had to flee to neighbouring countries because of the persecution they were subjected to on and after their return and are now living lives of fear, misery and deprivation.

The Home Office has already begun swooping in on the most vulnerable asylum seekers and the ones most easily detained – sole women and their children and those singled out for deportation because they have fallen foul of the law. Many of those facing the UK’s brutal immigration policy of deporting foreign criminals have committed nothing more serious than driving offences or shoplifting or using false documents in order to work, essential sometimes just to survive.

stopdrcdeportation4.pngAfter serving their initial sentence, many will have their hard-won right to remain in the UK revoked, they are subjected to lengthy periods of immigration detention, sometimes well in excess of two years, maybe four times as long as their original prison term.

If they are eventually deported because they run out of tools to fight the order, they will find themselves separated permanently from their wives and children who are left behind to cope alone. And they may face the same abuse from which they fled to seek sanctuary in the UK. It is punishment that far outweighs the crimes they committed and a very dark stain on the so-called civilised credentials of the British government.

Kasunga Kamulete, shown in the photographs at the Rwandan Embassy protest wearing combat gear and a green bomber jacket suffered 16 months of immigration detention following a five-month prison term for a driving offence.

Zantoto Mbongo in the orange coat suffered more than two years of immigration detention after a stint in jail for a similarly innocuous offence. Since the demonstration on 30th January he has been detained again after only a few short weeks of freedom.

Both Kasunga and Zantoto had won their right to remain in the UK and have been in this country for more than 14 years. If deported they will leave behind four and five children respectively.

Even if the British Home Office attempt to justify their warped and racist policy of such multiform punishments for individuals who lapsed for whatever reason, they cannot justify punishing the children as well by leaving them fatherless. It seems by doing so, we are simply stockpiling problems for the future in the form of a generation of alienated and angry children.

By Liz Atherton,
Coordinator of Congo Support Project London

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