Socialist Worker

Victory as journalist is released from detention

by Pete Murray, NUJ president
Issue No. 2215

Protest in defence of Charles Atangana last week
Picture: Guy Smallman

Protest in defence of Charles Atangana last week Picture: Guy Smallman

African journalist Charles Atangana has been released from detention in Britain in a major victory for refugee rights campaigners.

Charles fled Cameroon to seek refuge in Glasgow after suffering harassment, arrest and torture for investigating government corruption.

Just 24 hours after his release on bail, the journalist was once again researching human rights abuses in his native country.

But now he is using facilities at the London headquarters of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ).

“There is something seriously wrong with the treatment of asylum seekers in Britain,” says Charles.

In the six weeks since he was arrested in Glasgow, where he has lived since 2004, Charles had been moved between three deportation centres—in Manchester, London and Dover.

He twice came within three hours of being forcibly repatriated.

Dozens of members of the NUJ and supporters successfully lobbied the court hearing in London (above) on Friday of last week when Charles was released on bail.

The union is now demanding a judicial review of his appeal for refugee status.

Charles added, “I’m an African, I’m a journalist, but I’m a Glaswegian too and I want to go home to Glasgow, where I belong.”

A string of recent reports have highlighted widespread human rights abuse by the authorities in Cameroon.

The highly respected Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture said in a report that torture of detainees in Cameroon was so routine it was “like morning coffee”.

The UN last month demanded urgent action to halt extra-judicial killings, end torture in detention and lift draconian restrictions on the media.

Charles is aware that the high profile campaign has made it impossible for the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) to try to deport him through the anonymous, silent and unreported bureaucracy which veils hundreds of other asylum seekers.

“This campaign has already done more than any others like it, I think, to help expose what goes on inside the UKBA,” said Charles.

“Many of the people I met in the Colnbrook (next to Heathrow airport) and Dover removal centres have no lawyer or external supporters.

“The UKBA can pretty much do what it likes, and we must change that.”

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Tue 17 Aug 2010, 18:05 BST
Issue No. 2215
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