Congo Watch: Asylum questions for DR Congo

Thursday, December 01, 2005

Asylum questions for DR Congo

What happens to asylum seekers who are sent home? As part of a BBC World Service investigation, Jenny Cuffe has followed the footsteps of failed asylum seekers sent back from Europe to the Democratic Republic of Congo. What she found raised questions over how European governments are treating those they deport. Full story 1 Dec 2005 (BBC). Note, the report says:

Although Africa's bloodiest conflict has cost an estimated four million lives since 1998, many EU countries judge it safe to send failed asylum seekers back. They say that there is a transitional government which plans elections next year.

Malnutrition is widespread in Congolese prisons. United Nations has described the regime in DR Congo's prisons as one of rape and torture. If prisoners do not have relatives to bring them food, they may eventually die of starvation, it reports.

Human rights lawyer Celestin Nikiana has started to list the prisoners in Makala. He has found two of the prisoners to be former asylum seekers who have been there for more than five years without charge: Alain Londole, who was returned by Belgium, and Willy Ayi-Ansha, sent back by Italy. Mr Nikiana believes there is at least one other asylum seeker, returned from Belgium, being kept in the prison's political wing.

The UN has also criticised unofficial jails run by DR Congo's national intelligence service. These are said to be places where prisoners are subjected to "cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment and even torture". Human rights campaigners say they have information that one former asylum seeker is being kept in one of these secret centres.

Although campaigners have warned some people deported from Europe may be put at risk, they have not yet been able to produce convincing evidence.

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