Congolese asylum seeker Innocent Nkung has taken his anti-deportation campaign all the way to the Houses of Parliament.
On 24 July, Andrew Gwynne MP presented a petition to the House of Commons, with 4,199 signatures showing clear public support for Innocent Nkung’s asylum application. It is his supporters’ firm belief that Innocent would be at grave risk of persecution were he to be forcibly returned to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and that he is a great asset to British society.
Innocent Must Stay Campaign
Innocent arrived in the UK in May 2005, having fled his native DRC after being imprisoned, tortured and raped on a number of occasions for being an active campaigner for democracy in the Christian Union for Renewal and Justice (UCRJ), a political party opposed to the ruling transitional government. He also suffered persecution for his homosexuality. Two organisations have since provided medical documentation in support of Innocent’s claims of torture and abuse in his home country.
The petition presented to the House of Commons adds to the Innocent Must Stay Campaign, which has seen Innocent meet church groups, MPs and celebrities, and travel widely to give public meetings about the fate that awaits rejected Congolese asylum seekers upon deportation to their country. His campaign has received a large amount of support from his local community in Tameside, Greater Manchester, with the Tameside Advertiser and the Tameside Reporter publishing supportive stories about his case. Innocent, who is a philosophy graduate and former teacher in DRC, has also been actively involved in his local community, acting as a volunteer translator, French teacher and secretary to the Tameside African Refugee Association.
With a copy of the petition sent to the Home Office, Innocent now hopes it will pay close attention to his situation when considering his application. He told IRR News: ‘If allowed to stay in England, I will be able to carry on with my life and think of the future. If not allowed, it will be a question mark! I will never accept being deported to Congo, where I know that I risk being cruelly tortured and possibly killed. I call upon the Home Office to look favourably on my asylum application.’
He also called for improvements in the treatment of asylum seekers here in the UK: ‘The asylum situation in England is becoming more and more questionable. People seeking asylum are subjected to inhumane conditions. Destitute asylum seekers do not have anywhere to go and those who live under section 4, meaning those who get vouchers from NASS, do not have much choice for what they need. People are only allowed to exchange vouchers with food but there are other needs that every human being has beyond food.’
Killings and intimidation in DRC
Just days after Innocent’s petition was delivered to the House of Commons, the United Nations Mission in DRC (MONUC) published a report condemning executions, violence and human rights abuses by the security forces and militias in the run-up to elections in the country on 30 July. The report draws attention to the fact that the ‘routine use of physical violence against civilians, including summary executions, beatings and rape … is reported wherever the army is deployed’.  This is supported by Human Rights Watch, which has reported widely on recent violence and intimidation in Katanga, North Kivu and other areas of the country. Votes have now been cast in DRC and Congolese people both in the country and in exile are hoping that stability will soon return to this war-torn country that has seen millions of people die in the past decade.
Innocent’s MP, Andrew Gwynne, has written to Tony Blair and immigration minister Liam Byrne, including a letter written by Innocent about the current political situation and humanitarian crisis in the DRC, where the security forces, factional militias and the scramble for DRC’s mineral wealth have left the civilian population without peace, hope and stability for the country’s future.
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