Unsafe Return: Refoulement of Congolese Asylum Seekers (2011, Catherine Ramos)

On 26th February 2007 a Congolese client of Justice First was forcibly removed from the UK on a charter flight to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), where he arrived on 27th February with his wife and children. After interrogation, the family was allowed to leave the airport. In the early hours of 28th February the client was arrested at the address his wife had given to the authorities at the airport. He was transferred to Kin Mazière prison where he was tortured. In the judgement in the BK Country Guidance case it is stated that British Embassy officials were unable to find evidence that he was held in Kin Mazière on the 27th February 2007. The client had not been arrested until the 28 th. Joan Ryan, a Home Office Minister in 2007, assured Tees Valley MPs that the cases of all families removed on the 27th February charter flight had been investigated by senior caseworkers, who had acted in the best interests of the children. The children mentioned above have not seen their father for over four and a half years. Their father has spent these years in hiding in DRC and in exile. The children treasure two albums of photos of when they lived in Tees Valley, a time described as the happiest time in their life.

UK citizens kept in contact with Congolese friends who were refouled after 2007 and began to document their experience. Between 2009 and 2011 Southampton and Winchester Visitors’ Group, Open Doors in Hull and two charities in West Yorkshire, Solace and Beacon, provided information about Congolese clients that had been refouled. A pattern of alleged inhuman and degrading treatment of returnees began to emerge. There is evidence that returnees were subjected to some form of ill treatment in the course of an interrogation process or during detention shortly after arrival at N’djili airport. In letters from UKBA refusing asylum, returnees had been assured that they were of no further interest to the Congolese authorities and that it was safe for them to return.