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Bikounga Family Must Stay

John O | 12.09.2006 12:34 | Migration | Social Struggles | Birmingham | World

"We've had it all in the UK: Economic persecution, hardship, legal and administrative prejudice, brutality and detention, years of waiting and now destitution and the four of us living in one room. It's time to fight for our right to stay." - Judith and Juslain Bikounga, Tuesday, 12th September, 2006

"It's time to fight for our right to stay" Judith & Juslain
"It's time to fight for our right to stay" Judith & Juslain

Why they fled Republic of Congo

Juslain Bikounga and Judith Mtili lived in Brazzaville. Politically, Juslain was a supporter of president Pascal Lissouba and his Pan-African Union for Social Democracy (UPADS), which ruled between 1992 and 1997. He also belonged to the same ethnic group as president Lissouba and a martial arts instructor to Lissouba's presidential guards and security forces.

In 1997, Congo's democratic progress began to derail as tensions between Lissouba and a rival Sassou mounted. A four-month conflict destroyed much of Brazzaville. Angolan troops, backing Sassou, invaded Congo and the Lissouba government fell. Soon thereafter, Sassou declared himself President and began to hunt for his predecessor's supporters, in a civil war that would last for years, displacing an estimated 810,000 people as a result.

Fearing for their lives, the Bikoungas' fled Brazzaville and went into until December 2000, when Juslain was caught and arrested by militias loyal to Sassou. He was badly mistreated and tortured while being interrogated over the whereabouts of Lissouba's presidential guards. Luckily, he was released after 3 days, but was arrested again a week later. After two and a half weeks of torture and interrogation, one of Juslain's former martial arts students recognised him and 'helped' him escape on the day he was due to be executed. A few weeks of hiding and hardship eventually lead him to fleeing the country. He arrived in the UK on 31/12/2001, where he claimed asylum.

After Juslain 'disappeared', the police paid Judith a 'visit'. Insisting to know where he was, they hit her until she was unconscious. They also stubbed out a cigarette on her body. Judith was released and decided to leave Brazzaville (her daughter was left behind) she arrived in the UK on 27th July 2002, and claimed asylum.


By now, both Juslain and Judith were living in the UK but neither knew of the other's whereabouts: Juslain had been 'dispersed' to Sunderland, Judith to Derby. In December 2002, the Congolese community in Derby organised a party for their countrymen/women to meet up and celebrate New Year. There, Juslain and Judith met again and reunited. In February 2004, they arranged for their daughter to be brought to the UK with the help of an agent, whom they paid some £2,000, raised by the Congolese community in England. A second daughter was born that same year and the family were now living in Dudley, still waiting for their fate to be determined by the Home Office.

Asylum claim(s)

Juslain's reasons for refusal were, as in most cases, flawed and no more than general terms. Unbelieving his story, despite the considerable subjective and objective evidence that supported his claims, the interviewing officer decided that Juslain did not qualify for asylum and that his removal would not be in breach of the UK's obligations under the ECHR.

Meanwhile, Judith Mtili was still awaiting her own fate to be determined by the Home Office. She had claimed asylum on 7 August 2002, but it wasn't until February 2004 that she had her substantive interview. She hasn't heard from them since regarding her own claim.


The Bikounga family were now declared 'illegal' by the Home Office and did not have the right to stay in the UK. And since they did not leave the country 'voluntarily', as required, they were to be 'removed' forcibly. In the early morning of June 6th, 2006, 3 immigration officers, supported by about a number of police officers, raided their house in Dudley, without any previous notice, brutally arrested them and took them to Yarl's Wood detention centre.

The family spent almost 2 months in Yarl's Wood (from 6 June to 3 August, 2006). During this time, there were 3 attempts to deport them back to Congo Brazzaville, but each time something went wrong and they were spared. The first one, just after a day of arrival, was cancelled due to 'documentation issues'; the second, on 7 July, because there were no return flights for the 'escorts'; and the last, on 28 July, again due to 'documentation issues'. Indeed, their immigration papers are a real mess; there are so many factual errors and wrong dates, as well as imaginary 'immigration history', such as court hearings and appeals that never took place.


On 3 August 2006, the Bikounga family were released from detention, without them understanding how and why. They were not told anything; only given train tickets to Dudley.

When they got 'home', the house that had been provided to them by NASS was no more theirs; NASS accommodation at that address had been cancelled. So, naturally, they went to the Refugee Council, which has provided them with emergency accommodation, consisting of one small, miserable room in Small Heath, Birmingham. And that's where they live now. They don't have any financial support from NASS or the City Council, although they are still required to 'sign on' at the immigration-reporting centre on a weekly basis.

What you can do to help Bikounga Family to Stay

The Family, with the help of West Midlands Anti-Deportation Campaigns (WMADC), have started a campaign to keep the family in the UK. Model letters/petition attached (copy/amend/write your own version).

We are asking you to make copies and circulate them to your Union/faith group/local community group, every signature will help.

Please return completed model letters/petitions to the campaign office. When enough signatures are gathered a local MP will be asked to present them to the Home Office, (or email them to Judith& ).

Bikounga Family Must Stay C/o NCADC 110 Hamstead Road Birmingham B20 2QS Website: Tel: 0121 554 6947

Messages of support for Judith & Juslain: Judith&

End of Bulletin:

Source for this Message: The Bikounga Family Must Stay Campaign

John O
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