A Rwandan mother and her three children are facing imminent deportation after being ‘snatched’ from their home in Salford last week.
Olive Mukarugwiza and her children Sandra aged 18, Olivier, 17, and Yvan, 6, are currently being detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. School friends and teachers of 6-year-old Yvan are extremely concerned about his detention, arguing that it is inappropriate to hold a child in a centre in which one man took his life last year and suicide attempts by adults are frequent. Olive has been receiving psychiatric help from her doctor and is taking medication for depression and anxiety.
Attacks and harassment
The family arrived in the UK in 2003, after thirty of their relatives were murdered in the 1994 Rwandan genocide, including Olive’s mother and two of her aunts. Olive is a Tutsi but was married to a Hutu, resulting in political and social tensions which culminated in the murder of close members of her family, by her husband’s brothers. Olive testified against these criminals and they were imprisoned. She alleges that she was subsequently beaten and harassed by her husband’s family, who attempted to bully her into withdrawing her statement. Olive also claims that her children were attacked and that she was beaten whilst pregnant with her youngest son, Yvan, resulting in him being born prematurely.
The huge numbers of people accused of murder in the Rwandan genocide has led to the creation of ‘community courts’ in Olive’s homeland, designed to reduce pressure on the legal system. The prison system has proved unable to cope with such vast numbers and in 2003, many convicted murderers, including Olive’s husband’s brothers, were released from overcrowded prisons.
Release of genocide perpetrators
The organisation Human Rights Watch commented in its ‘World Report 2006’ that: ‘In July [Rwandan] authorities provisionally released nearly twenty thousand detainees who had confessed to genocide or who were elderly, ill, or who had been minors in 1994. This brought to nearly forty-five thousand the number released since 2003, all of whom will supposedly stand trial. Genocide survivors, who feared new attacks or attempts to impede justice by those released, protested the decision.’
As one such genocide survivor, Olive is ‘petrified’ about being deported. Her husband’s cousin is chief of police in three of the twelve Rwandan provinces and she argues that he is therefore in a position to be notified of her return. She believes that she and her children will be ‘silenced’ if they return.
‘No ill treatment or persecution’
The adjudicator in Olive’s asylum appeal described her as a ‘truthful, honest and credible witness’, but argued that what had happened to her did not ‘amount to ill-treatment’ and that ‘she had not been persecuted’. The National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC), which is working to prevent the deportation of this family, has described the adjudicator as ‘crass’, believing that his comments ‘reveal his lack of understanding of the situation in Rwanda’.
Supporters of the family are keen to highlight the fact that they have integrated well into the Salford community. Olivier is studying IT and wants to become a lawyer, Sandra is studying Travel and Tourism, French and English and has already been offered places at three universities. Olive, who worked as an accountant in Rwanda and also had her own flower shop, now studies at Salford College. Protestors believe it is both unfair and dangerous to uproot the family and force them to return to a country in which their lives will be characterised by fear.
Linda Robson, the leader of the Olive And Her Children Must Survive Campaign, spoke to IRR News during the staging of a Valentine’s Day protest at the office of Salford MP Hazel Blears. ‘Children from Yvan’s school have just delivered pictures and messages of support to Hazel Blears’, she explained and commented that she was pleased with the turnout. She also revealed that the family has just enlisted the help of a new solicitor and it is hoped that the case will be given a judicial review. The campaign group is urging people to write to Tony McNulty, minister for immigration, to voice support for the family.