Protests and hunger strike against Border Agency

Penny Cole reports on a deportation protest in Glasgow organised by the National Union of Journalists

Members of the National Union of Journalists, other trade unionists and supporters from the community, have protested outside the UK Border Agency offices in Glasgow against the planned deportation of NUJ member Charles Atangana.

Charles Atangana Protest

As well as Pete Murray (seen speaking), president of the NUJ, there were representatives from the Scottish TUC, the Unity Centre Glasgow, the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and people from the Citizen’s Advice Bureau in Parkhead, where Charles worked as a volunteer.

Charles Atangana Protest

Charles is an economic and political journalist from Cameroon. He fled for his life in 2004 after he was set upon by President Biya’s security forces, arrested, stripped naked, beaten up and detained for 40 days.

He has faced continued death threats while he has been in exile and if sent back, he is going to a country which is “one of the worst jailers of journalists in Africa”, according to the Federation of African Journalists.

A number of prominent journalists are currently in prisons in Cameroon, locked up for investigating state corruption. In April this year, Bibi Ngota, a journalist and the editor of the bi-monthly Cameroun Express died in custody.

Beatings and torture are routine in Cameroon jails, and the suggestion that Charles Atangana can return safely is scandalous.

Since arriving in Glasgow, Charles has worked as a volunteer with the Citizens Advice Bureau in Parkhead, and as an activist with the Maryhill Integration Network.

But after his application to remain was rejected he was forcibly removed from Glasgow, to Colnwood detention centre near London. He spoke to the  demonstration from Colnwood via mobile phone.

Charles Atangana Protest

The NUJ lodged papers in the High Court seeking the right to have a judicial review of the decision, and as a result the Border Agency’s plan to deport Charles at 2am on August 3 was postponed.

At the same time, nearly 150 people in the Campsfield detentention centre near Oxford have gone on hunger strike, demanding to be released. They are in prison for long periods because the government cannot organise to deport them, but will not grant them leave to remain.

In a statement, they said:

“Some of us detainees have been detained for over three years with no prospect of removal or any evidence of future release. There is no justification whatsoever for detaining us for such period of time.

“Our lives incidentally have been stalled without any hope of living a life, having a family or any future. More often than not, we are being detained even when our family (wife and children) are resident in the United Kingdom, depriving us of having a life with our family. We the detainees are also humans.”

The crudely cynical head of the UKBA, Jonathan Sedgwick, said that though the refugees were refusing food it was not a hunger strike because "they still have access to the vending machines".

The most recent victim of the UK’s ruthless anti-asylum/refugee policy is Osman Rasul, an Iraqi Kurd, who last week threw himself to his death from a tower block in Nottingham. Osman was fighting a refusal of asylum, and the small charity that had been helping him – Refugee and Migrant Justice – closed last month for lack of funds. They say that if the Ministry of (in)Justice had paid up all the legal aid money it was owed, their work could have carried on.

3 August 2010

  • More information about supporting Charles Atangana on the NUJ website

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