Anti-racist campaigners in Bolton were celebrating last week at the news that the Sukula family had won their three-year fight and been granted indefinite leave to remain in Britain.
Ngiedi Lusukumu and her five children fled government persecution in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the end of 2001.
In Britain they were denied asylum and became one of the first families to be made destitute under the Section 9 policy that the government hoped would drive families out of Britain by taking away their homes, benefits and services.
The Sukulas’ high profile campaign saw daughter Flores Sukula, a gospel singer, speak and sing her way through scores of meetings across the country, including many trade union conferences, in parliament and at the Labour Party conference.
Flores told Socialist Worker, “We would like to thank all the people of Bolton who supported us, especially our friends, our fellow students, the teachers and the unions. Bolton NUT teachers’ union and Bolton Unison both gave fantastic support.
“We also had wonderful support from church groups. Socialist Worker supporters and others on the left helped put us in touch with the unions and helped us argue for our rights in a political way.
“Our local newspaper, the Bolton News, took a brave stand very early on and gave us massive support. They showed that the media can play a positive role in asylum issues.
“Because of the campaign, Bolton council refused to kick us out of our accommodation. We had to live off handouts from friends and supporters for 20 months.
“I am very proud that we stood firm through all this, so that the government cannot put other families through that. We smashed Section 9!
“Now I want to help others fight these racist laws. It is not right for people fleeing war to have to beg for their lives just because they are black.”
Neil McAlister is the vice-chair of the Sukula Family Must Stay Campaign and a Left List council candidate in Bolton