Despite a 21-year-old asylum seeker being served with three removal notices and sustaining a broken hand during one attempted deportation to Congo-Brazzaville, he has, with the help of campaigners, now been given temporary admission to the UK and submitted a fresh asylum application based on new evidence.
Anicet Mayela, a 21-year-old asylum seeker from Congo Brazzaville, arrived in the UK on 8 March 2004, after paying an ‘agent’ to get him out of Congo where his life was under threat. He was dispersed to Plymouth by NASS and his asylum claim was refused on 22 September 2004. Anicet’s lawyer declined to take his claim further and Anicet’s own attempt to appeal to the (immigration appeals) tribunal was dismissed on 30 November 2004; his application for statutory review failed on 9 March 2005. Then, on 10 March 2005, he went as usual to sign on at his local police station and was detained and taken to Harmondsworth removal centre. He was then told he was to be deported on 19 March.
He was taken to Heathrow for a flight to Congo Brazzaville. At the airport, Anicet, who was terrified of being returned to Congo Brazzaville, alleges that he was assaulted by his escorts. Anicet says that he was taken to a corridor where there were no people and was assaulted by his GSL escorts. He alleges that the guards kicked and punched him, causing his nose and mouth to bleed and a broken bone in his hand. The escorts decided they could not put him on the flight and returned him to an isolation cell at Colnbrook removal centre. The following day Anicet was moved to Campsfield, near Oxford, from where he was taken to the John Radcliffe hospital for x-rays – which revealed that he had suffered a broken hand. He also had bruising and swelling injuries consistent with his allegations. (See IRR News Story a review of Harm on Removal: Excessive Force against Failed Asylum Seekers – a report by the Medical Foundation).
At Campsfield, Anicet reported his allegations about the brutality of the escorts to the Prisons and Probations Service Ombudsman, Stephen Shaw, who has been investigating allegations of assault by immigration detainees as a result of the BBC’s Asylum Undercover programme (See IRR News Story Campaigners demand inquiry into immigration detention). He also engaged solicitors to initiate a civil action against those involved in his failed removal attempt.
The police have investigated the alleged assault and have passed the file to the Crown Prosecution Service. A spokesperson for GSL told IRR News that it would be ‘inappropriate to comment’ as an investigation was ongoing. The accused guards are now working for Securicor, which has taken over the transport contract from GSL. A Home Office spokesperson told IRR News that ‘they cannot comment on individual cases’.
However, his ordeal was far from over. At Campsfield on 6 April he was served with another removal order, which was cancelled at the last moment after his lawyers argued that to remove him while the police were investigating the assault would be a breach of his right of access to justice. Then on 4 May, Anicet was issued with yet another removal order. Despite efforts by his lawyers and support groups the removal was not cancelled. At 2 in the morning Anicet was taken from Campsfield and driven to Southampton Airport. On the tarmac of Southampton Airport, he alleges, guards forced his hands behind his back and handcuffed them, causing great pain to his partly healed hand. Then, he claims, his legs were strapped together with plastic tape and he was ‘carried’ onto the plane. ‘I was crying, crying’, Anicet recalled. The removal was aborted after the Air France crew reportedly saw what was happening and refused to carry him. He was taken back to Campsfield, where, he says, covered with more bruises, he was unable to eat or drink for four days. He was then moved to Colnbrook, a ‘high security’ removal centre near Heathrow, where he was held for six weeks. On 16 June, the day before the organisation Bail for Immigration Detainees had scheduled a bail hearing, Anicet was given temporary admission to the UK. New information has made it possible for Asylum Aid to submit a fresh asylum application on his behalf. He is living in Oxford with the support of friends.
Anicet’s supporters are calling for the removal of the threat of deportation and for him to be granted refugee status. One of them, Teresa Hayter, told IRR news: ‘Anicet is very impressive, but he is fearful that he could be locked up again and, worse still, removed to Congo. He has been told that they may still try to remove him.’