Rochdale’s Besong released from detention

FEAR: Lydia Besong is scared about what might happen if she returns to Cameroon

By Will Astbury

A ROCHDALE-based writer has been released from a detention centre so the UK Border Agency can consider a fresh claim for asylum.

Lydia Besong, who wrote the play ‘How I Became An Asylum Seeker’, has now been released from the Yarl’s Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire after it was announced that a fresh asylum claim is being considered along with new evidence.

Speaking to Manchester Mouth, Besong, 38, said: “I’m feeling ok that I’ve been released but I’m running up and down. I don’t have any support and I don’t have any accommodation.”

She was detained at Dallas Court reporting centre in Salford on 10 December 2009 before being moved to Yarl’s Wood where she was told she and her husband Bernard Batey would be deported on 21 December 2009.

Describing her time in Yarl’s Wood, Besong said: “It wasn’t easy for me. No one is happy there. Everybody is scared that they are going to be put on the next flight out of Britain. We all have similar stories. It was very bleak.”

The couple have been living in the UK ever since they fled Cameroon on 17 December 2006. They left after they were tortured and raped because they were members of freedom fighting liberation organization the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), a group supporting independence for English-speaking provinces.

Reports suggest that the French-speaking majority of Cameroon often discriminates against the minority English-speaking Cameroonians. Besong and Batey are from South West Province, one of the two English-speaking provinces out the ten provinces that make-up Cameroon.

On Thursday 29 October 2009 the couple returned to their home after work to find the ‘go home’ letter from the UK Border Agency. They have now been made homeless and are staying with separate groups of friends.

They are also terrified about what may happen to them if they return to Cameroon, where human rights violations have reportedly been ordered, condoned or perpetrated by the national authorities.

According to a report entitled ‘Cameroon Impunity Underpins Persistent Abuse’, published by Amnesty International in 29 January 2009, the Cameroonian government has consistently contravened its national and international human rights obligations by making “arbitrary arrests and unlawful detentions, extrajudicial executions, threats against and ill-treatment of human rights defenders and journalists, denial of the rights to freedom of expression and association, harsh prison conditions, torture  and other forms of cruel inhuman or degrading treatment, failure to protect the  human rights of women and girls, and persecution of men and women on the grounds of their actual or imputed sexual orientation”.

Besong, who was an English teacher in Cameroon, said: ”I would like to go back to my home country. My friends and family are there. I can work there, I can use my education there, and my husband’s daughter is there. But the politics is bad in Cameroon.”

The UK Border Agency accepted that the couple had grounds for a fresh asylum claim after original documents from Cameroon were presented as new evidence.

However, asylum claims are a lengthy process and it means that Besong and Batey, who had hoped for a judicial review of their earlier case, will now have to go over everything again, including finding accommodation and receiving vouchers for food.

“I’m trying to drum up accommodation and support. I have to apply again under section 95,” said Besong, “I’m expecting a call in the next few days about getting some temporary accommodation.”

Until a final decision is made about their status the couple remain in limbo, constantly in fear that they may be told to leave the country again.

Dr Rhetta Moran, of Manchester-based human rights charity RAPAR, said:  “We are delighted that Lydia has now been released. But new restrictions mean that she and Bernard have to report weekly at Dallas Court.

“When their previous asylum claim was refused, all support – including housing – was withdrawn from them so they now have to go through the process of re-applying for that support.”

Having to live separately with limited access to supplies, legal aid and money is the government’s way of discouraging the couple, and many other asylum seekers, from living in Britain.

But the pair are putting themselves through hell because of what might happen if they return to Cameroon, especially as their case has been so widely publicised in the media.

If you would like to send messages to support the couple write to Lydia and Bernard c/o RAPAR 6 Mount Street Manchester M2 5NS or email


One Response

  1. […] Rochdale's Besong released from detention « Manchester Mouth Share and […]

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