I'm writing to let you know about deportation orders that have been served on a group of Congolese asylum seekers for 30th August and a variety of ways you can help. Congo Support Project is a well organised national group with local CSP groups working hard to support the Congolese community in this country. You can support them by sending donations of money, coming to any of their meetings, writing to your MP, going on planned marches or organising autonmous actions in solidarity. Please read what you can of this email using the contents below to choose, and take action as appropriate to your situation. Congo Support Project could do with donations to cover travel costs for High Court appearances and various meetings. Send cheques to 'Congo Support Project', Mocha Community Centre, Mocha Parade, Salford. They really are doing tons of work,supporting hundreds of people, on a shoestring. Thanks.
1. Dates for your diary
2. Some Background info
3. Congo protest statement
4. Sample letter to your MP
1. Dates for your diary
Saturday 25 August, Congo Support Project meeting, Manchester Friends Meeting House, 3.30-6.30pm
Sunday 27 August, Benefit Meal at 1 in 12 Club, Albion Street, Bradford, from 6.00pm. Find out about situation in Congo, meet members of Congo Support Project, plan solidarity actions and have a lovely meal by donation with all profits to Congo Support Project. Unfortunately the 1in12 Club is not accessible, but call in advance to work out access needs, and we'll do our best. 01274 745002
Tuesday 28th August, 12 noon, marches in cities across UK - Manchester, London, etc. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org or check out www.indymedia.org.uk newswire for details,or organise your own march
Thursday 30th August, planned date for deportation of Congolese asylum seekers
September, Home Office review of their policy on Congolese asylum seekers (conveniently after the planned deportations)
19-24 September, NO Borders camp,near Gatworkc airport. Again, see www.indymedia.org.uk
2. Some background info
On 26 february 40 Congolese asylum seekers were deported to Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), including 19 children. A Kinshasa human rights observer currently in the UK has evidence that these people have been subjected to severe human rights abuses since their return to DRC. The company that took on the deportation charter flight - XL airways - has been the subject of protests and direct action. They say they aren't involved int he 30th August planned deportation.
3. Congo Protest Statement
Following the recent disappearance of Lufu Ndombasi after he was deported to the Democratic Republic of Congo, anti-deportation campaigners have launched a petition to stop a Home Office charter flight to Kinshasa in August.
The statement reads:
'We protest in the strongest possible terms at the plans to deport failed asylum seekers en bloc to the Democratic Republic of Congo on 30 August 2007 ("Operation Castor").
The situation in DR Congo remains grave for returned asylum seekers. Indeed, it is precisely because of such concerns about the fate of returned asylum seekers, including, many experts argue, the very real risk of torture or death, that the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal is currently reconsidering the country guidance advice. The decision on this case is not expected to be heard until at least 17 September.
Further evidence of extreme concern over the fate of returned asylum seekers to the Democratic Republic of Congo is expressed in Early Day Motion 1729, signed by 53 MPs, and the High Court decision of Mr Justice Walker on 24 May 2007 (High Court Ref: CO/8351/2006) that an asylum seeker should not be returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo whilst the tribunal is still considering the evidence.
The planned deportations to the Democratic Republic of the Congo on 30 August are of particular concern, coming as they do before the tribunal's decision on the country guidance issued by the Home Office.
We therefore ask urgently for the home secretary to reconsider and to stop the planned deportations scheduled for 30 August, cancel the charter flight and not carry out any removals to the Democratic Republic of Congo before the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal's decision.'
This statement has been launched by Flores Sukula of the Sukula Family Must Stay campaign and is supported by the Refugee Council, Liberty, Bolton National Union of Teachers, National Union of Journalists, Refugee Action and the National Assembly Against Racism.
3. Sample letter to your MP
I am writing to ask you to join 53 other MPs who have signed EDM 1729.
"Extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, acts of torture or ill-treatment, and life-threatening prison conditions continued on a daily basis" - Amnesty International Report 2007 - DR Congo
The "BK" case is a DR Congo “Country Guidance” case and is intended to give guidance to Immigration Judges in assessing asylum claims by Congolese asylum seekers. The BK case seeks to challenge the Home Office's claim that there is no risk on return to the DR Congo to "refused" asylum seekers and will hear what I understand is "overwhelming" evidence of the possible intimidation, torture and imprisonment by DR Congo authorities of deportees. If BK's appeal is allowed, it will result in "case-law" from which it is anticipated that many other Congolese asylum seekers could benefit. The BK case was originally due to be heard in March but adjourned to July, and since adjourned again (part-heard) to September 17th 2007.
Little more than one week ahead of the original planned opening of the BK case in March, the Home Office rounded up 40 Congolese asylum seekers, including women and children, and deported them on 26th February 2007 in a plane the Home Office chartered from XL Airways in what they dubbed "Operation 'Castor". I feel “Operation Castor”, and all other removals to DR Congo, are cynical and blatant attempts by the Home Office to get rid of as many Congolese asylum seekers as possible before case-law goes against them.
There seems to have been a pattern of the Home Office rounding up, detaining and deporting asylum seekers of a given nationality just prior to a "Country Guidance" case being heard or the judgement being handed down ;
Zimbabweans and the "AA" Country Guidance case (since been superseded by HS case).
Sudanese asylum seekers and the "HMGO" Country Guidance case in March 2007
Sri Lankan asylum seekers and the "LP" Country Guidance case earlier this month (August 2007)
Details ; http://www.ncadc.org.uk/emmaginnsfolder/emmaginnsfolder/aug%2007/CynicalBlatant.htm
On 19th June 2007, Rudi Vis MP established EDM 1729 ;
COUNTRY GUIDANCE TRIBUNAL ON THE DEMOCRATIC REPUBLIC OF CONGO
"That this House maintains that, in the light of the imminent Country Guidance tribunal on the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), due to commence in July [case since adjourned], which will address risk on return for failed asylum seekers from this country, all further deportations and removals to DRC should be suspended until the case has been heard and a decision reached, as it would be imprudent to return DRC nationals if there is a possibility that credible evidence may be presented in the tribunal to demonstrate that there is a real and substantial risk of serious ill treatment of returned asylum seekers."
See : http://edmi.parliament.uk/EDMi/EDMDetails.aspx?EDMID=33553&SESSION=885
Despite EDM 1729, a number of Congolese detainees have now received "removal directions" for Thursday 30th August on flight number PVT616, again under 'Operation Castor'. Others have "removal directions" for Monday 20th August. I feel this is yet another attempt by the Home Office to get rid of Congolese asylum seekers before case-law goes against them.
Even if a Congolese deportee had no history of persecution in the DR Congo, they may be branded a political dissident simply because they claimed asylum in Europe, and as such, could face imprisonment and torture on return. ALL DR Congo deportees are in danger because they risk being interrogated at the airport to see if there is a political "charge" against them, or just to extort a "fine". Some don't have any means to pay a "fine" and may be imprisoned, possibly indefinitely. The Home Office admits that DR Congo prison conditions are "life threatening", synonymous with disease, hunger, abuse, torture and death, and, are "likely to reach the Article 3 threshold".
The DR Congo authorities know which passengers are deportees because a UK officer personally hands them over in the airport - the response to a Freedom of Information Act request revealed that "the detainee and the Detainee Custody Officers (DCOs) are usually the last people to leave the aircraft. The detainee is personally handed over to the local authorities by the DCOs. The documentation identifying the detainee is passed to the local official accepting the detainee."
The Ndombasi family were snatched from their home in Bolton on 20th July 2007 and deported the next day to the DR Congo. Reportedly, Mr Ndombasi was detained on arrival by the DR Congo authorities and his family and friends have heard no news from him - he has become one of the disappeared. The mother told supporters in the UK that she and her son have been harassed by the DR Congo authorities and have now gone into hiding.
I would be most grateful if you could confirm to me that you have now signed EDM 1729.
Name : ……………………………………………………………..
Address : ……………………………………………………………..
Post-code : ……………………………………………………………..
Date : ……………………………………………………………..