Odette Sefuko fled the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) via Uganda in fear of her life five years ago and came to England to claim asylum. The Home Office have rejected her claim, (now being reviewed by the European Court). The Home Office refuse to accept Odette is Congolese, despite reputable evidence (see below). They want to send her back to Uganda, a place where she might face imprisonment, torture or maybe death.
In 1996 Odette’s father was accused of helping ‘the opposition’ and was taken from his home by government soldiers. 2 days later his family were told he was dead. In 1998 many armed men, including some government soldiers, forced their way into Odette’s home and accused her husband of collaborating with the rebels and hiding weapons. The soldiers interrogated/tortured them all and raped Odette, her sister and mother; during this attack Odette’s brother-in-law and mother were murdered and Odette seriously wounded. Shortly after Odette became President of a group called ‘Umoja Ninguvu’ (‘Together we are strong”), which she had been a member of since 1997. The group’s aim was to help women who had been raped. In 2002 Odette’s husband was ‘taken away’ by government officials and “disappeared” a few days later they found out he had been murdered. In July 2004, Odette and other leaders of Umoja Ninguvu became concerned for their safety and fled to a UN refugee camp in Uganda. Odette returned to Bukavu in October to be with her children, who were being cared for by her sister. In March 2005 there was renewed fear for Odette’s safety; as a result she tried to cross the border to Burundi at Uvira. Odette was arrested here, imprisoned and held without trial, regularly beaten by soldiers with fists and sticks and raped repeatedly. A man working for a local Human Rights Group visited Odette in prison twice and insisted she be taken to hospital after seeing her injuries, the soldiers took her to Lemera Hospital, Panzi in DRC. From here she escaped, via the aid of the hospital doctor (who pronounced her dead and sent her to the morgue), and some friends in the church helped her to escape the hospital and sheltered her. In June 2005, the pastor and his wife from Centre D’Accueil, Rhema, Bukavu, were flying to Manchester, UK for a conference. They arranged for Odette to escape to the UK under the guise of the pastor’s wife. On arrival in UK, the Pastor paid for a taxi to take her to the Home Office in Liverpool, where she claimed asylum.
Through The Red Cross, Odette re-established contact in 2007 with her sister and children, after they too were forced to flee DRC, where they became and are now Ugandan refugees. Odette discovered her sister was ill and needed medication (HIV, contracted from being raped); and her children were starving. Odette found a small job, out of desperation to help her family, because of this Odette served a 12-month prison sentence from 08/2008 to 06/2009 after being caught for working without a visa. Odette has been diagnosed with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) due to the trauma she faced in DRC and the continued stress she has faced since arriving in the UK.
Community Work – Odette is a much loved and valued member of the community and has worked hard as a volunteer for the Northern Refugee Centre, St Mary’s Lunch Club; Low Edges Conversation Club, all of which have given her supporting letters. She is a member of St Mary's Church, Bramhall lane, since her arrival in Sheffield. She regularly attends English classes and would like to train as a hairdresser since she did some voluntary work.
Odette’s Asylum claim - The Home Office are denying Odette’s claim, despite expert supporting evidence that she comes from Bukavu, Kivu, DRC; they want to believe she is Ugandan and deport her to there (she is not Ugandan).
“Currently, most deportees come from the UK, and the UK considers deportations to Uganda safe and legal due to assurances offered by President Yoweri Museveni. However, the personal accounts relayed to our office match a general pattern documented by experts and journalists: ‘A failed asylum seeker, with a deportation certificate, arrives at Entebbe airport and is handed over to one of the security organisations. If suspected of political dissident activities, the person is taken to a safehouse for questioning. Rape, for women, is inevitable. Children over the age of three are taken from their mother and put in an orphanage. Detention can last weeks, or months; a number of people have “disappeared” from custody,” Source - Pambazuka News – pan-African voices for freedom and justice – 7 May 2010.
There is a Facebook page for the campaign here: http://tinyurl.com/sefuko
There is a online petition against the deportation of Odette Sefuko you can add your name to here: http://www.petitiononline.com/CADOSUK/petition.html and the text of the petition follows:
To: Home Secretary
ODETTE SEFUKO is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). She came to claim asylum in the UK because her life was threatened. She was imprisoned, tortured and raped for trying to help women who had been raped and because she is Bunyamulenge; an ethnic group that have been persecuted in DRC for many decades. Many of Odette’s family have also been murdered. Odette is seeking asylum under the 1951 UN Convention on the Status of Refugees, her claim was refused by the tribunal court, she is now seeking an appeal. The Home Office do not want to accept that Odette is Congolese, despite reputable evidence. They want to send her to Uganda, where she might face imprisonment, torture, rape or death. Please sign if you wish to support this campaign.
Dear Home Secretary, we, the undersigned are concerned citizens who strongly object to the unjust refusal of Odette Sefuko’s asylum claim and demand you reconsider your decision and offer her protection from arrest/rape and/or murder by not deporting her to Uganda or DRC and granting her leave to remain in the UK