Most people yearn to return to their country of origin. But this is not the case for some citizens of the Democratic Republic of the Congo who, after losing their right to asylum in the United Kingdom, face the dangers of returning.
Lara* preferred to return to the Congo with her daughter of her own accord before being deported. She did it through the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) on the 14th of January 2011.
The return journey was without setback and she arrived in her country alive. However, after only a few weeks, an attempt was made to contact her to see how she was doing. There was no reply and so far there has been no news from her.
Her story is similar to that of many Congolese who flee wars, political disputes and the miseries of their country and who, once thrown out of the countries in which they want to claim asylum, face torture, prison and persecution when they are returned to their country of origin.
A report by ‘Unsafe Return’ offers a true account of 17 Congolese people who were deported by the United Kingdom between 2006 and 2011. The report shows evidence of a serious risk of the real danger they face once they return to their country.
The situation inside the African nation does not help the problem. In 2011 according to the United Nations Human Development Report, The Democratic Republic of the Congo was considered the poorest nation in the world.
Besides, it is a nation where armed groups commit grave violations, where the young are recruited by warlords and where there are more than 1.7 million internally displaced people, of whom 72,000 live in make-shift camps where they are aided by the UNHCR (the United Nations’ Agency for refugees).
On the 26th of February 2007, a Congolese man, a client of ‘Justice First’ (a movement which works with those seeking asylum), was forced to leave the UK on a private flight which left from Tees Valley for the Congo.
He arrived there on the 27th with his wife and children. After being interrogated at the airport, the family were allowed to return home.
The next day, the client was arrested and taken to Kin Mazière prison, where he was tortured. Joan Ryan, British Minister of the Interior, gave an assurance that all the families transferred on the flight of the 27th had been interviewed by social workers and were in no danger.
The children, who keep two photo albums as treasures of when they lived in Tees Valley, and describe it as the happiest time of their lives, have not seen their father in four and a half years; the entire time he has been missing.
Wale* left the airport and, upon arriving in a place called Kisangani, saw a jeep with four people without any kind of uniform. They asked him if his name was Wale and told him that he had to go with them. He tried to resist but they began to beat him and put him in the car by force. They took him to prison.
RAS2 was delayed for an entire day at the airport, where she was subjected to interrogation. She was asked for the names and addresses of her father and children, what she had been doing in the UK, why she had been repatriated…finally she was allowed to leave the airport but was followed by a 4×4.
Articles 1 and 2 of the 1951 Convention Relating to the status of Refugees define the obligation of a country – in this case the UK – to accept those who flee persecution.
The UK does not have a system to monitor those who are returned to their countries, although this is something the Border Agency does not believe necessary: “The best way to prevent abuse is to make sure that we do not send back those in real danger; not to monitor them once they have returned.”
But, according a report by ‘Unsafe Return’, it becomes evident that the method employed by the British government is not working. Repatriated people and their families are harassed, harmed and subjected to extortion …and the women run a serious risk of being raped.
The report proposes: a revision of the evaluations made by the British Border Agency in order to make sure that it is safe to deport certain people, create a system to monitor the safety of expelled citizens… And that social workers communicate to the Congolese government that those who are returned are low level political activists in opposition parties which represent no threat.
Faced with this lamentable situation, it urges that the involved parties take appropriate action to allow these people to return home safely. British newspapers, such as the Guardian are already reporting the hidden suffering of these asylum seekers.
*(Name changed for security reasons)