Congo mother and son’s asylum plight screened

DISPLACED: Tony Lola had to leave Congo after he was interrogated about the whereabouts of his family by police

By Mike Dalglish

A FILM that documents the struggle of a nine-year-old Congolese boy and his mother to win asylum status in the UK has been screened in Manchester.

‘Displaced’, which was shown at the Imperial War Museum North on Monday 23 November 2009, shows the plight of Tony Lola and mother Mireille who fled persecution in their native Democratic Republic of Congo.

Produced by Ella Cummins and Charli Allen, the film was one of five made by University of Manchester students as part of their MA in War, Culture and History.

Mireille, who now lives in Manchester, fled her home seven years ago after her life was threatened.

Tony was later sent to join her after he was locked up by police who tried to force him to reveal the location of his family members.

Neither of them know the location of Tony’s father Papy, who openly opposed the incumbent president Joseph Kabila. They believe he has been imprisoned.

The Home Office initially rejected their asylum application despite believing their story.

However thanks to a high profile campaign organised by staff and pupils at Didsbury C of E Primary School the authorities reversed their decision on 20 April 2009.

Football mad Tony, who was delighted with the decision, said: “I like Manchester because it’s not too big and not too small.

“It’s safer here. I don’t want to get arrested like my dad did.”

RELIEVED: Mireille Lola is glad she and her son have been granted asylum in the UK but is scared of what lies ahead

Mireille was relieved but problems still lie ahead.

She said: “I miss my country, my family, my friends, my work…everything. I miss everything.”

Ella said she wanted the film to dispel some common myths about asylum seekers, one of the most contentious topics in Britain today.

Charli added: “Tony and Mireille have been through hell – but they had lots of support.

“Many asylum seekers don’t have that luxury and are totally alone.

“We feel it’s important not to forget that.”

The screening also featured several other films.

‘War in the Time of Elections’ by Jonny Mundey, filmed in Nakuru, Kenya, followed a Kenyan family as they recalled the horrific post-election violence that poor the country apart in early 2008.

‘The Long Shadow’ by Anton Bielecki, is a story of the memories of Wanda Bielecka, who escaped from the Nazis during the Second World War.

‘In the Garden’ by Dejan Levi, introduced the audience to a group of refugees in Liverpool banned from paid employment by the government who work in a garden to pass the time.

‘The Shape of War’ by Ed Poole explored to what extent a museum can give people an impression of what war is really like.

Course director Dr Ana Carden Coyne said: “The MA in History, War and Culture reflects the intellectual challenge of truly grasping the serious impact of war on peoples and cultures.”

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