Friday, August 03, 2007

Deportations carry on regardless!

People who know me well will know that I spent some time before becoming a Councillor teaching English to refugees who arrived in Stockton from a variety of trouble spots around the world. In general I found them delightful students, desperate to learn the language and the culture of the country which had taken them in and was providing a temporary refuge from fear, oppression and worse. I occasionally meet some of them around the town, still here, still wishing their country was safe to go home to.
Imagine then my anger when I found that some people seeking asylum here from the Democratic Republic of Congo were being deported back there, told that the country whose government had sanctioned their torture and the killing of members of their family was a safe place to live. I am ashamed to say that our Government, acting supposedly on behalf of the citizens of the United Kingdom, has agreed to have a tribunal look at the evidence about the DRC but then keeps deferring its meetings while still deporting people. I've been shown photographs and heard personal testimony from some of those affected and I'm horrified.
I am a firm supporter of the view that people who are at risk of torture, murder, starvation and other atrocities must be given a safe haven to live in until the problems at home are resolved. This is very different from the view sometimes expressed in the media and elsewhere that all these people are coming for is our health service and benefits. They don't actually qualify for anything but basic support and I believe they need that support. The other side of our responsibility as a comparatively rich and democratic nation is that we work with the UN and other international bodies to encourage the countries concerned down the path of peace and basic human rights. When those things are in place the vast majority of refugees want to go home. The few who have put down roots in their country of refuge can surely be accommodated.

Rant over, but if you agree that deporting people to torture and worse is wrong, please write to your MP and to
Kim Howells MP - 0207 219 5813 Fax: 0207 219 5526
Foreign and Commonwealth Office, Whitehall SW1A 2AH

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