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14 February 2008

Deporting Good Guys

Why are we sending hard-working people back to countries where they risk being tortured?

By Sara Hall

After imprisonment and torture in Cameroon, Guy Nijike claimed asylum on the day he arrived in the UK nine years ago. He set out to re-build his life. He learned English, worked full-time at Selfridges, devoted his spare time to volunteer work and was even called up for Jury Service.

On Monday in his lunch break he went to report to the borders and immigration authority as part of a routine monthly procedure. He was detained on the spot, informed that his case had been rejected and told he would be deported to Cameroon at 6.30 am on Saturday. In Cameroon, Guy will be in danger of being imprisoned and tortured.

I first met Guy four years ago when we were both studying together for a Masters in Human Rights at the University of London. He is a kind man. It never failed to amaze me how he found the strength to give so much time and energy to the community and keep on top of his job. Christine Watts, Communications Director at Selfridges confirmed yesterday that Guy was “a good employee” since he started working there in February 2004.

Guy volunteered at numerous organizations, including the Refugee Council.

Prior to his detention he spend three evenings a week volunteering for Medsin du Monde. “Guy is very committed to human rights and has a strong desire to make a difference to other people’s lives,” says Jenny Hamilton, Professor of Law at the University of Strathclyde. Professor Hamilton met Guy eight years ago and has remained in close contact with him since.

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When he arrived Guy had to cope with the pressures of adapting to the new life in the UK. He received counselling from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture. For almost five years he was left in limbo by the authorities. Although he had claimed asylum on the day he arrived in the UK, he had to wait until after March 2004 for his initial interview at the Home Office. After his claim and appeal were rejected later in the year Guy managed to submit a fresh bid for asylum with new supporting material in May 2005.

This was the last he heard about his claim until two days ago. On his lunch break from his job at the food hall in Selfridges he was detained, he reported at Becket House, the local enforcement office of the borders and immigration authority. He was not allowed to finish his shift at work or to go back home and collect some personal items. He is currently being held at Southwark police station.

There are severe concerns for Guy’s safety in Cameroon. His friends fear that he is likely to be imprisoned again and possibly tortured. The Foreign Office on its website describes that the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture has highlighted “protracted detention without trial, torture of detainees and appalling prison conditions” in Cameroon in recent years.

Upon hearing about his detention, Guy’s friends and colleagues reacted with outrage. Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North where Guy lives, has submitted an enquiry to the Home Office on Guy’s case. An online petition calling on Home Secretary, Jacqui Smith, to allow Guy Nijke to remain in the UK was set up by his friends Tuesday night and so far gathered more than 360 signatures. Kirrily Pells, a friend of Guy’s, says: “Guy is a great friend and an integral member of the community. It is ridiculous that this country is deporting the type of people we need. We will do everything we can to keep him here with us.”

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