In recent weeks, asylum seekers from DR Congo have been served with removal directions for a specially chartered flight on 30 August. Others have been given removal directions for 20 August.
The DR Congo Country Guidance case
The charter flight is taking place just weeks before the ‘BK’ case, which is a Country Guidance case (Appeal No. AA/04958/2006) due to be heard on 17 September and is intended to give guidance to Immigration Judges in assessing asylum claims by Congolese asylum seekers. The BK case seeks to challenge the Home Office’s claim that there is no risk on return to the DR Congo to refused asylum seekers and will hear evidence of the possible intimidation, torture and imprisonment by DR Congo authorities of deportees. If BK’s appeal is allowed, it will result in ‘case-law’ from which it is anticipated that many other Congolese asylum seekers could benefit.
Many campaigners feel this is an attempt by the Home Office to get rid of as many Congolese asylum seekers as possible before case law is established if the BK decision goes against it. This has happened before when, little more than one week ahead of the original planned opening of the BK case in March, the Home Office rounded up and deported forty Congolese asylum seekers including women and children on 26 February in what was dubbed ‘Operation Castor’. The BK case was in fact later adjourned twice.
There seems to be a pattern in the Home Office of rounding up, detaining and deporting asylum seekers of a given nationality just prior to a ‘Country Guidance’ case being heard or the judgement being handed down. This happened, for example, to Zimbabweans with the ‘AA’ Country Guidance case (since been superseded by HS case), to Sudanese asylum seekers with the ‘HMGO’ Country Guidance case in March 2007, to Sri Lankan asylum seekers with the ‘LP’ Country Guidance case earlier this month (August 2007).
Extrajudicial executions, arbitrary arrests and torture
According to Amnesty International’s Report 2007, in the Democratic Republic of Congo ‘extrajudicial executions and other unlawful killings, arbitrary arrests, unlawful detentions, acts of torture or ill-treatment, and life-threatening prison conditions continued on a daily basis’.
Even if a deportee had no history of persecution in the DR Congo, s/he may be branded a political dissident simply because s/he claimed asylum in Europe and, as such, could face imprisonment and torture on return. All DR Congo deportees are in danger because they risk being interrogated at Kinshasa airport to see if there is a political ‘charge’ against them, or just to extort a ‘fine’. Some don’t have any means to pay a ‘fine’ and may be imprisoned, possibly indefinitely. The Home Office admits that DR Congo prison conditions are ‘life threatening’, ‘infectious diseases ‘widespread’ with prisoners ‘frequently … subjected to torture, beatings, and other abuse with no medical attention.'
The DR Congo authorities know which passengers are deportees because a UK officer personally hands them over in the airport. A response to a Freedom of Information Act request has revealed that ‘the detainee and the Detainee Custody Officers (DCOs) are usually the last people to leave the aircraft. The detainee is personally handed over to the local authorities by the DCOs. The documentation identifying the detainee is passed to the local official accepting the detainee.’
Lufu Ndombasi – detained and ‘disappeared’
The Ndombasi family were snatched from their home in Bolton on 20 July 2007 and deported the next day to the DR Congo. Reportedly, Mr Ndombasi was detained on arrival by the DR Congo authorities and his family and friends have heard no further news from him – he has become one of the ‘disappeared’. His wife told supporters in the UK that she and her son have been harassed by the DR Congo authorities and have now gone into hiding.
See the links below to see what you can do.
See What you can do
NCADC news story: 18 Children & 14 adult DR Congolese to be deported by ‘Charter Flight’