UK frees asylum seeker facing deportation to DRC

Author: Diane Taylor

A Congolese asylum seeker who was due to be removed from the UK on Christmas Day has been released from detention, a decision that has been welcomed by the community in Swansea that is supporting him.

Otis Bolamu, 38, a survivor of torture in his home country, is a keen churchgoer as well as a volunteer at his local Oxfam bookshop, and many members of the community, alongside Welsh assembly members and MPs, joined together to protest about his detention and call for his release.

Bolamu worked for the Congolese electoral commission, which is under scrutiny after claims of fraud during recent elections. He said he gave information about the alleged fraud to opposition politicians and was then suspected of spying for the opposition, which placed him in “severe danger”.

He was detained by the Home Office on 19 December and told he was due to be removed from the UK. But on Thursday he was released.

After his release, Bolamu said: “I’m so happy and excited to be out of detention. After my experience in Congo it was terrible to be locked up there and not to be able to see my friends. Although I’ve now been released I’m not free yet and won’t be free until I have won my case and know my life can be safe at last. I will be continuing to work hard on my case and continuing to volunteer in the Oxfam bookshop. I went back there this morning.”

According to Amnesty International, the human rights situation in the country has further deteriorated in recent months.

Bolamu said he was imprisoned for nine days in the DRC but escaped when a friend of his father paid a bribe to the military. He was smuggled out of the country and arrived in the UK in October 2017 and claimed asylum the day he arrived.

Phil Broadhurst, the manager of the Oxfam bookshop, described Bolamu as a “lovely guy” and welcomed his release. “His detention was wrong on so many different levels,” he said.

Bolamu’s solicitor, Jamie Bell of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, said he was working on further submissions in the case in the hope of securing refugee status for him. The Home Office refused one set of further submissions on 4 January but subsequently released him from detention.

Bell said: “We are delighted that Otis returned home after his release from detention. He has received amazing support from so many in the Swansea community and this gave him hope when he was feeling lost. We now look forward to continue to fight for Otis’s right to stay in the UK as a refugee and will be working hard to prove his claim.”

A Home Office spokeswoman said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection. All asylum claims lodged in the UK are carefully considered on their individual merits against a background of relevant case law and up-to-date country information.”

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