Anti-racists in West Wales are celebrating after Otis Bolamu was granted the right to stay in Britain on Wednesday.
Otis, who lives in Swansea, fled political persecution in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) in the spring of 2018. He was seized in a dawn raid on 19 December 2018 and locked up in Brook House detention centre, near Gatwick Airport, ahead of a planned deportation on Christmas Day.
A determined campaign by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) Wales and community groups halted the deportation and saved Otis from possible death in the DRC.
Otis told Socialist Worker he was “excited and happy” to have been granted asylum seeker status this week. “I have freedom because people came to support me and the newspapers, including your one, talked about my case,” he said.
“That’s how we won.”
Otis, like the thousands of other people who apply for asylum in Britain, was put through the brutality of Britain’s immigration rules.
People who apply for asylum only have a meagre £37.75 a month to live on. And the money is loaded onto a special “Aspen” debit card, meaning the government restricts what they can spend it on.
Asylum seekers are not allowed to work while the Home Office is processing their application. Otis said, “When you are an asylum seeker you cannot work for money at the end of the month, only do voluntary work.
“You have the same difficulty if you want to study.”
Otis, who has volunteered at the Oxfam charity’s bookshop in Swansea, hopes to be able to go to university.
Alice Greenlees, a friend of Otis and member of the SUTR Wales group, told Socialist Worker, “It is amazing news that Otis has won his status. It’s been a very hard year for him and a long campaign by Stand Up To Racism, asylum seeker support groups and the legal team.
“He was threatened with deportation on the Friday before Christmas and was going to be put on a plane on Christmas Day.
“People were angry because it seemed like natural justice had been suspended.”
Otis fled from the DRC because he was part of the opposition to Western-backed president Joseph Kabila.
Kabila was forced to step down in January 2019—two years after his mandate ran out—but the country is still not safe. Authoritarian Felix Tshisekedi won in rigged elections and appointed Sylvestre Ilunga, a Kabila stooge, as prime minister.
Otis said, “The British government knew very well about what is going on in the Congo, but they didn’t care about it.”
The victory in Swansea shows how campaigning can contest the racism of the British state. The SUTR national demonstrations in London and Glasgow on 21 March are an opportunity to build a bigger movement against it.