Friday, July 13, 2007

Congolese in UK

Campaigners say failed asylum-seekers sent back to the Democratic Republic of Congo become prime targets because they are seen as traitors and warn that people sent back have disappeared without trace but plane-loads of rejected asylum-seekers have been returned . Amnesty International warns that executions, murders, arbitrary arrests and imprisonment, torture and life-threatening prison conditions are routine in the DRC.

The British embassy in Kinshasa says it has no evidence that they face mistreatment upon their return. Baroness Scotland of Asthal, the former home office minister, has said there is "no objective evidence that those returning to the DRC are being specifically targeted for abuse simply because they have sought asylum".

The Bishop of Winchester protested recently that the Home Office "always makes Kinshasa sound like Dorking" and that everyone with experience of the DRC - including himself - found the "mantra-like assurances of the department simply incredible".

A court challenge to the Home Office's insistence that the country is safe is planned for September. Activists will present a dossier of information about the dangers to opposition activists and other dissidents in the DRC.

There are an estimated 6,500 Congolese refugees in Britain. The numbers of asylum-seekers have dropped from 1,475 in 2004 to 1,080 in 2005 and 570 last year. There were 125 in the first three months of this year. Just over 20 per cent of their applications are granted.

The Congo Support Project co-ordinator said: "The situation is dire. The treatment of failed asylum-seekers is very bad - there is a very high risk of people [being] arrested when they are sent back."

Donna Covey, the chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "It will be safer and fairer to halt forced removals while the courts are considering the guidance about the Congo."

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