RAPAR: the Manchester-based Human Rights Organisation: LYDIA AND BERNARD MUST STAY CAMPAIGN
LAWYERS TO APPLY FOR INJUNCTION TO STOP DEPORTATION OF LYDIA BESONG AND BERNARD BATEY ON SATURDAY – DECISION ON CASE TAKEN THREE WEEKS AGO BUT COUPLE NOT TOLD UNTIL MONDAY, SEPTEMBER 5th.
Veteran broadcaster Joan Bakewell and “Billy Elliot” creator Lee Hall join hundreds of supporters throughout the UK who have written protest letters to Home Secretary this week.
Lawyers for Cameroon playwright Lydia Besong and her husband Bernard Batey will seek an injunction tomorrow to stop the deportation of the couple from the UK on Saturday.
Bernard is currently being held in Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre after UKBA officers went to their home in Bury early on Monday morning. Lydia had already left the house but her solicitor has now been served with removal directions for her as well. Campaigners are demanding to know why the couple and their solicitor were not informed that further submissions in their case had been rejected before the UKBA swooped on their home.
It is now clear from UKBA paperwork that the decision to reject them was taken on August 17th. Supporters want to know why Lydia was not informed of this when she went to report at Dallas Court on August 22nd – or why they were not told in writing in accordance with the UKBA’s own procedures before the raid on their home.
A spokesperson for the human rights organisation RAPAR said: “We are appalled by the actions of the UK Border Agency. This is yet another example of the UKBA failing to act within their own procedures.”
A friend and supporter of the couple in Bury has complained to MP David Nuttall that Lydia and Bernard were not told about the decision – and has also made a complaint regarding the treatment she herself received from the UKBA when she rang Dallas Court to inquire about Bernard on Monday.
Lydia and Bernard’s many supporters throughout the UK are writing to the Home Secretary Theresa May calling on her to make an urgent intervention in this case. High profile supporters include the veteran broadcaster Joan Bakewell, “Billy Elliot” creator Lee Hall, actor Juliet Stevenson and the Bishop of Manchester.
Lydia and Bernard were politically active in Cameroon with the SCNC, a pressure group which campaigns peacefully for independence for southern Cameroon and is persecuted by President Paul Biya’s regime. They were both imprisoned and tortured and Lydia was raped by a prison guard.They sought asylum in the UK in 2006 and, since then, their story has been the subject of hostile press reports in Cameroon. In December 2009, a High Court judge granted an injunction to prevent them being deported and asked the UKBA to review their case.The RAPAR spokesperson added: “The UKBA is still seeking to deport Lydia and Bernard despite all the evidence which shows the violation of their human rights in Cameroon and the very grave danger they would be in if returned.
It is a sad reflection if this country cannot give refuge to a couple who have been persecuted and tortured merely for trying to exercise their right to freedom of expression.
”English PEN is also backing Lydia and Bernard. An open letter sent to The Guardian in July by leading writers and actors raised concerns about Lydia’s case.The couple are both members of the union Unite, Lydia is a long standing member of the management committee at WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) , and both she and Bernard are members of RAPAR. They are also members of the Bury AcaPeelers Choir. Their campaign is backed by Community Arts North West, the GAP Unit and Commonword, the Manchester writers’ organisation.While they have been living in Bury, their MP David Nuttall has raised their case with Immigration Minister Damian Green and their supporters have sent hundreds of postcards and letters to the Home Secretary.
BACKGROUND INFORMATION –
· In 2009/2010 Lydia was held in detention for four weeks over the Christmas period and she and Bernard were threatened with deportation. The flight was halted by a High Court judge and the UKBA said their case would be reviewed.
· In Cameroon, Lydia taught English and English Literature and Bernard ran his own business. They were forced to leave their home country because of their membership of the SCNC, a pressure group which campaigns for the rights of the English speaking minority of Southern Cameroon. The couple were imprisoned and tortured in Cameroon, they faced beatings and Lydia was raped by a uniformed prison guard. They have both been traumatised by these experiences and are subject to severe depression.
· Amnesty International’s most recent report, published in May this year, says the Government in Cameroon continues to attempt to silence critics of its policies. “The Government continues to curtail the activities of the SCNC, a non violent secessionist group whose members face arrest and imprisonment.” The US Country Report on Human Rights has also drawn attention to the persecution of SCNC members in Cameroon.
· A writer in Cameroon was recently released following a strong campaign by Amnesty International. He had been held in extremely harsh prison conditions for six months after writing a book about the president’s wife.
· Lydia has written three plays, one of which remains unpublished and is critical of President Paul Biya, who has ruled in Cameroon for 28 years. Her play “How I Became an Asylum Seeker” has been performed in Manchester, Salford, Liverpool and London. In London, she shared a platform with actor Juliet Stevenson in a discussion around issues raised by the play.
· Lydia and Bernard received strong backing from their former Rochdale MP Paul Rowen who said he knew their case well and believed there was a “real and substantial danger to Ms Besong and Mr Batey should they be returned to Cameroon.”
· The couple lived in Rochdale for three years before being re-housed in Bury. They have widespread support in both communities and also in Manchester where they have worked as volunteers for human rights organisations. They are valued members of the congregation at St Ann’s Church, Belfield, Rochdale, and the Bishop of Manchester has spoken out publicly on their behalf. They are also members of a community choir in Bury, the Bury AcaPeelers whose members have supported their campaign.
· Members of English PEN, the organisation which campaigns for writers and playwrights internationally, have backed Lydia and Bernard’s fight to remain in the UK
Wednesday, September 7th for more information, go to www.rapar.org.uk
Bernard and Lydia Must Stay
11.09.09***update*** Bernard has been moved out of short term to long term holding. The situation for he and Lydia will clarify further once offices open tomorrow.
As at 20.40, Bernard has been in Colnbrook’s short term holding facility for over 24 hours. This is against procedure. Bernard has pointed this out to the Guards and asked to be moved but he has not been moved. He has asked for a complaint form but not been given one. We have phoned Colnbrook on 0208607-5200 to speak to the Deputy Contact Director but the phone is not being answered.
23.15***UPDATE**** SEE LATEST PRESS RELEASE HERE
18.14***update**** Bernard called by his lawyer….our current information is that the injunction has been successful and the flight has been cancelled
17.44***update**** listen – at 44.40 to live BBC broadcast about Bernard and Lydia
16.45***update*** lawyers continue to work for Bernard. Please see Guardian Newspaper report, now live. Listen to BBC Radio Manchester at about 17.40 tonight
15.16***update*** Injunction denied. Please contact Bernard’s MP David Nuttall on 0161 797 5007, your own MP and Kenyan Airways and ask them to stop the removal Visit the Lydia and Bernard webpage for further information on how you can help
14.02*** UPDATE**** AS AT 13.52, BERNARD’S LAWYERS HAD NOT RECEIVED A RESPONSE FROM THE COURT
13.36 *** UPDATE**** UKBA OFFICERS HOLDING BERNARD BATEY ARE TELLING HIM THAT COLNBROOK HAVE NOT RECEIVED ANY FAXES FROM BERNARD’S LAWYER TELLING THEM ABOUT THE JR AND THE FACT THAT THE REMOVAL PROCESS SHOULD BE STOPPED WHILE CASE IS UNDER REVIEW…. BERNARD’S LAWYERS HAVE SPOKEN WITH JASWANT IN THE IMMIGRATION DEPARTMENT IN COLNBROOK WHO CONFIRMED THAT COLNBROOK ONLINE RECORDS NOW NOTE THAT THE JR HAS BEEN LODGED AND HERE IS THE CONFIRMATION OF FAX RECEIPT.….OWN UP UKBA !
***090911UPDATE*** Judicial review lodged yesterday now under review with Mr. Pelling. More faxes just sent by legal reps to UKBA Detained Casework Section, Treasury Solicitors, and Colnbrook to confirm that JR lodged so removal proceedings should be discontinued whilst case under review. READ TODAY’S ARTICLE IN BURY TIMES: LYDIA AND BERNARD’S HOME TOWN PAPER
***070911 UPDATE**** REPORT OF INTENTION TO REMOVE BERNARD AND LYDIA TO CAMEROON NOW IN CAMEROON PRESS At 7.30am on Mon 05 Sept 2011, at least five UK Border Agency officers went to the home of Cameroon playwright Lydia Besong and her husband Bernard Batey in Bury, Greater Manchester. Visit the Lydia and Bernard webpage for information on how you can help