Lydia Besong Must Stay – Update
Lydia Besong, a Cameroon national and resident of Manchester, is currently detained in Yarl’s Wood IRC and is due to be forcibly removed from the UK on Kenya Airways flight KQ 101 Heathrow TN4 on Monday 21st December 2009 at 19:00. Although he is not in detention, the Home Office also wishes to deport her husband Bernard Batey at the same time.
Lydia and Bernard sought asylum in the UK on 18/12/06. Their asylum claim is based on their activities with the Southern Cameroon National Council, a peaceful political organisation that campaigns for the rights of the English-speaking minority of Southern Cameroon. Prior to their arrival in the UK, both Lydia and Bernard suffered beatings and imprisonment as a result of their involvement with the SCNC and Lydia was raped by a uniformed guard.
For background information and details of how YOU can help,
On 20/10/09 the Home Office issued a letter stating their reasons for refusing to grant asylum, asserting that any documentation from Cameroon is unreliable due to pervasive corruption in that country. Bernard and Lydia have submitted new evidence to the Home Office since then. he chairman of the SCNC has since affirmed that Lydia and Bernard were active human rights practioners in Cameroon and their human rights work in the UK stands as a testimony to that. Bernard and Lydia have worked tirelessly at RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seekers Participatory Action Research) and WAST (Women Asylum-Seekers Together) with refugees in similar situations to their own.
In spite of the Bajul ruling of the African Commission on Human Rights calling on the Biya regime of Cameroon to enter into dialogue, recent months have seen the Cameroonian state crack down on the SCNC. Meetings have been broken up and people carrying copies of the Banjul ruling have been arrested.
USA: Country Reports on Human Rights Practices – Cameroon 2008
The government’s human rights record remained poor, and it continued to commit human rights abuses. Security forces committed numerous unlawful killings. Security forces also engaged in torture, beatings, and other abuses, particularly of detainees and prisoners. Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening. Authorities arrested and detained anglophone citizens advocating secession, local human rights monitors and activists, persons not carrying government-issued identity cards, and other citizens. There were incidents of prolonged and sometimes incommunicado pretrial detention and infringement on citizens’ privacy rights. The government restricted citizens’ freedoms of speech, press, assembly, and association, and harassed journalists. The government also impeded citizens’ freedom of movement. Other problems included widespread official corruption; societal violence and discrimination against women; female genital mutilation (FGM); trafficking in persons, primarily children; and discrimination against pygmies, ethnic minorities, indigenous people, and homosexuals. The government restricted worker rights and the activities of independent labor organizations. Child labor, hereditary servitude, and forced labor, including forced child labor, were problems.
Robert Sharp, of English PEN, the charity which campaigns for writers and playwrights internationally, is also calling for Lydia a playwright to be released. He said:
“This is a blow for freedom of speech. With this detention, Lydia’s fledgling literary career will be cut short. It is astonishing that the UK plans to deport someone who has been seeking refuge from a government that attacked her just for exercising her right to freedom of expression.”
Please urge Home Secretary Alan Johnson MP to cancel the planned removal and release Lydia back into the community of Greater Manchester in which she belongs. After the contributions this couple has made to our community and in mind of the grave danger they face if returned to their home country, it is time for the UKBA to realise that this couple are an asset to our country.
Take Action Now
1.) Email/Fax, Sam Okwulehie, Group Area Manager Kenya Airways and urge him not to carry out the forced removal of Lydia Besong – download model fax ‘Lydia BesongKA.doc. You can copy, amend or write your own version – please quote Kenya Airways flight KQ 101 Heathrow TN4 on Monday 21st December 2009 at 19:00.
Fax: 020 8745 5027 – from outside the UK + 44 20 8745 5027
Phone: 020 8759 7366 – from outside the UK + 44 20 8759 7366
2.) Please send urgent Email/faxes immediately to Rt. Hon. Alan Johnson, Secretary of State for the Home Office asking that Lydia Besong be granted protection in the UK. Please use the attached “model letter” (LydiaBesongAJ.doc) you can copy/amend/write your own version (if you do so, please remember to include HO ref: B1236372.
Fax: 020 8760 3132
Please let the campaign know of any Emails/faxes sent:
Lydia Besong and Bernard Batey Campaign
You may also wish to send messages of support to Lydia and Bernard:
Lydia Besong and Bernard Batey
c/o RAPAR 6 Mount Street
For further information, please contact:
- RAPAR’s Press Officer Kath on 0161-225-2260 or mobile 07812471047
- RAPAR’s office: 0161-834-8221