Socialist Worker

Update: deportation of Otis Bolamu halted after determined campaign

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2635

Protesting in Swansea for Otis Balamu

Protesting in Swansea for Otis Bolamu (Pic: Swansea Stand Up To Racism)


Campaigners have been told that the deportation of Otis Bolamu, scheduled for Christmas Day, has been halted, at least temporarily.

But it is crucial to keep up the campaign for him to be allowed to stay in Britain and not sent back to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).

He feared the DRC authorities would murder him if he was returned.

The postponement of the deportation, following a determined campaign by Wales Stand Up To Racism and many others, may have saved Otis’s life.

Otis, who lives in Swansea, was seized in a dawn raid on Thursday of last week. 

Earlier this week he spoke to Socialist Worker from his cell in Bridgend. "If the immigration authorities make me go back to the Congo, the government would arrest me and try to kill me," he said.

"The immigration came at 4 o'clock in the morning," he said. "They beat at the door, I opened it and then they arrested me.

He added, "I'm very fearful and not in a good place."

Otis was later moved to Brook House immigration removal centre near Gatwick airport. His deportation was expected on 25 December.

But his campaign won support from a wide range of people, including Plaid Cymru assembly member Bethan Sayed who wrote, “‘I am appalled yet not surprised at the actions of the UK government in seeking to deport Otis Bolamu in this manner.

“It is vitally important that we all work together as a community to oppose this deportation.”

Otis’s local MP, Labour’s Carolyn Harris, has given him her support and Plaid Cymru leader Adam Price also urged the Home Office to stop the deportation.

A support petition has been signed by thousands of people.

Opposition

Otis was forced to flee the DRC in Central Africa because he was part of the opposition to the authoritarian rule of Western-backed president Joseph Kabila. Otis said, "The president and government don't accept me because I joined the party of opposition."

Kabila, who succeeded his father in 2001, has repeatedly delayed presidential elections for the last two years in an attempt to cling on to power. Otis said, "I was working for the electoral commission in my country.

"The president doesn't like me because he asked me to help with voting card fraud this year.

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"I refused, so he put me in prison."

Pressure from mass opposition has forced Kabila to step aside ahead of presidential elections due to be held next Sunday, 30 December. This doesn't mean it's safe for Otis to go back to the DRC.

Kabila is determined that his hand-picked successor, Emmanuel Ramazani Shadary, will succeed him as president in the election.

He is the country's brutal interior minister, responsible for the arrest, torture and murder of political activists. As Otis said, "Congo is not good right now, they are killing innocent people."

Otis was helped to flee the DRC and has tried to claim asylum seeker status in Britain in February. He has since worked as a volunteer in the Oxfam shop in Swansea.

"I applied for asylum on the first day I came here," he said. "But now the immigration are saying that I have to go back.

"A solicitor did an appeal, but the court refused."

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Supporters of Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) Swansea held an emergency protest in Castle Square on Friday night last week.

Otis's case is another example of the Tories' racist treatment of refugees and migrants. It shows why we have to fight for all those facing deportation.

Labour's shadow home secretary Diane Abbott has promised to scrap the "hostile environment". This would include shutting Yarl's Wood and Brook House immigration detention centres and limiting detention to 28 days.

Anti-racists should demand that Labour goes further and pledges to shut all the immigration detention centres, stop deportations and give asylum seekers indefinite leave to remain.

DRC's history has been shaped by imperialism. Now those same countries shut the door on those who flee the horrors they have helped to create.

Sign the petition in support of Otis at bit.ly/OtisStays SUTR is asking for protests to Rt Hon Sajid Javid MP, Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF. Or you can write to the Immigration Minister, Rt Hon Caroline Noakes MP, at the same address. Otis’s name and ref number are Otis Bolamu, HO-B1980997.

 

 


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