RAPAR's Annual General Meeting took place on 30th October in the Friends Meeting House and was chaired by Barly Koyangbwa.
Nestor came safely out of Dallas Court Home Office Reporting Centre today. He has to report again next month.
Many thanks to Manchester Quakers, Manchester City of Sanctuary and other friends and supporters who came to Dallas Court to stand shoulder to shoulder with Nestor. Nestor is under threat of detention and removal from the UK despite the fact that he has lived in Manchester for 12 years. His case has been described as being caught up in a "whirlpool" of Home Office bureaucracy. Read more about Nestor's campaign here Thank you to everyone who has signed the petition and left supportive comments. They are greatly appreciated.
You can follow updates on Nestor's campaign and find out how you can help by visiting his campaign page.
A Guinean man who has made his home in Manchester for the last 12 years has been caught up in a Home Office "whirlpool" of bureaucracy.
Nestor Sylla, who is vice-chair of RAPAR and is involved with other charitable organisations in the city, came to Europe at the age of 26 looking for his mother after the death of his father and the murder of his sister in Guinea.
Nestor did not find his mother but discovered new friends in Manchester who are now his family. He met Quaker Elizabeth Coleman through a hosting scheme for people who have come to the UK seeking asylum and have ended up destitute and homeless. Later, he helped Elizabeth and others run the Boaz Trust winter night shelter based at the Friends' Meeting House in Manchester.
Elizabeth, who is retired, said: “Nestor's home is England. He is like a son to me and has a lot to contribute to our society.” When Elizabeth was ill, Nestor visited her in hospital and was a vital carer for her when she was discharged.
Nestor also supports another friend and her five children, helping with homework, taking them to school and the dentist, and attending parents' evenings. He says: “All these people are now my only family.”
Nestor arrived in Europe looking for his mother, a French citizen who left the family home after the death of his father. His travel was paid for by a woman who said she was a friend of his mother's and a passport for him was arranged.
When he came to the UK, Nestor went to the job centre to find work and showed them his passport. He was accused of having a false travel document and was arrested and imprisoned in Strangeways but was cleared of the charge and released.
Nestor was advised to apply for asylum and his case was being considered under the old Legacy system but his immigration solicitor missed a Home Office deadline. His complaint against the solicitor was upheld.
Last year, Nestor was unlawfully detained at Brook House Immigration Removal Centre at Gatwick Airport – which featured in a BBC Panorama investigation and led to 10 members of staff being suspended.
He was detained despite having submitted a Further Leave to Remain application and having proof of postage and delivery. When his solicitor applied for bail, the Home Office misled the judge saying a decision would be made on the case by July 21st 2017 and, because of this assurance, Nestor remained in detention at Brook House. He was finally released the following month after it became apparent that the Home Office had not even looked at the application.
Earlier this year, the Home Office wrote to Nestor rejecting his application because they said he had used the wrong form. He enlisted the support of his MP Lucy Powell to show that the correct form had been used. The Home Office then claimed they had not received an application, despite the fact that they had also written to Nestor advising him that his fee waiver application, which is included in the Leave to Remain application, had been accepted. RAPAR asked how the Home Office had rejected a Leave to Remain application and accepted a fee waiver request on a document they claimed not to have received.
One solicitor has described the Home Office as having Nestor in a “whirlpool” of bureaucracy. RAPAR believes there are many queries over this case which have not been answered satisfactorily. Last week, the Home Office rejected Nestor's Leave to Remain application and have said he must now leave the UK or risk detention and removal.
“Nestor has been unjustly treated and unlawfully detained. The Home Office has made numerous errors and is not answering an important request for information,” Elizabeth says.
A RAPAR spokesperson said: “Nestor is a refugee who came to this country when his life had been threatened and he had lost his immediate family. On arrival in the UK, he was wrongfully criminalised and remanded in prison for several months. Yet, despite all this, he has led an exemplary life volunteering for organisations like the Red Cross and Mustard Tree, as well as RAPAR and the Boaz night shelter. He has helped care for Elizabeth and the children of his friend Marie and all these people are now his family.
“In their refusal letter, the Home Office says Nestor can go back to Guinea – where his life was at risk and his sister was murdered – and suggests that people whose immigration status is 'precarious' should not be making close personal relationships in the UK.
“Is it the Home Office's position that people who have fled death threats, torture and persecution should be making preparations to return to their home country while they are seeking asylum and safety in the UK? That I have cared for people while living here? Does the Home Office expect that a person can spend 12 years in a country and not form attachments to others and they form attachments to me?”
THE METRO - Rebecca Yeo: "Before he was murdered, here is what a disabled asylum seeker had to say about Britain’s ‘hostile environment’" >>>
THE GUARDIAN - Steven Morris : "Memorial to murdered refugees unveiled in Bristol " >>>
Human rights campaigners in Bristol pay tribute to Kamil Ahmad who was brutally murdered after suffering racist abuse.
Ahmad was one of the participants of the Disability Mural that brought to light the struggles faced by disabled asylum seekers, amongst them, RAPAR members Manjeet Kaur and Mary Adenugba.
Now the mural will grace the walls of Bristol City Hall in remembrance of both Kamil Ahmad and Bijan Ebrahimi who were both murdered in brutal racist attacks.
“By putting the artwork on the walls of City Hall I hope it sends a message that their lives mattered.” - Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bistol
Both the case of Ahmad and Ebrahimi showed that though both had been the victims of serious racist abuse, deep systematic failings and institutional racism meant that the authorities failed to protect both Kamil and Bijan resulting in their murders.
Learn about the Bristol Disability Mural here >>>
Anna Maria Miwanda Bagenda was a mighty woman.
The first time she spoke for RAPAR it was at a Home Office organised conference about Refugees held at the newly completed Radisson Hotel at Manchester Airport in 2002. The stage was raised and Home Office officials were looking down upon us when Miwanda began to walk towards them from the back of the hall. She raised her hands as she approached, speaking out in a clear and utterly uncompromising tone: “We are here because you were there.” The hall became silent as she went on to explain to the assembled, in her own inimitably charming and humorous way, how all Refugees are part of the solution. Miwanda was always part of the solution.
During the three years that she lived with us here in Britain, many people felt her curious combination of indomitable will and deep empathy. ‘Superglue’ was how Bagenda affectionately nicknamed one early RAPAR member, a young Bengali mum of three young children. Like many others, she loved to be around Anna Maria because, no matter how anxious or traumatised an individual may be, Miwanda could inspire a sense of security and a feeling of love.
In late 2003, RAPAR became aware of the systemic racism being demonstrated by some bus drivers working along The Crescent in Salford who were refusing to stop for Muslim women who were covered. Bagenda strode into a University of Salford public meeting that was being addressed by then Home Secretary Hazel Blears and, during question time, extracted a public commitment from Hazel to take the matter up.
Of the many people who knew Miwanda, here are some memories:
“Anna Maria was larger than life, fearless and inspiring. I never forget what she said about what attitude we should have to the police: ‘They should stay in the station and not leave. If we need them we will call’." (Mark Krantz, anti-racist campaigner)
"She was a kind hearted, very firm, and dedicated activist. As an Exiled Journalist Network pioneer member, when she seconded my Committee Member nomination I got 23 out of 25 votes. As a pioneer member of RAPAR, she made a true struggle to help other people. She made a lot of difference in the lives of displaced, desperate people from all over the world and refugees seeking safety in the UK. Rest In Peace my Friend. " (Mansoor Hassan, RAPAR member and former Chair, NUJ member and editor www.saraikistan.com)
“I first met Miwanda in 2004 at the National Union of Journalists’ office in Manchester. I was a Union accompaniment representative and she was the Lead Development Worker at the Salford RAPAR SRB5 project. It was through this work that I came to know this African woman of short stature and great presence. I liked her sincerity and her humanity. She was, without doubt, principled and courageous. Miwanda was also a Roman Catholic and she lived her faith. I kept in sporadic touch with her when she returned to Africa and she always enquired after my grandchildren. When my second grandson was born she knitted him a blanket for his cot. I am very saddened to hear of her passing.” (Bob Pounder, Minister at the Unitarian Chapel, Oldham)
“I am deeply saddened by the news of her death. She was a kind, caring, person who always seemed to make time for others regardless of her own personal circumstances. She had first-hand experience of the cruelty of the UK’s asylum process but her resistance for herself and for others was formidable. She was intelligent, engaging and strong willed - an asset for humanity. My memory of her, as I am sure with many others, will live on. (Ameen Hadi, Treasurer, Salford City UNISON)
“This is very sad news. Anna Maria made a real impression on me when I first became involved with RAPAR. She was also a lovely, gracious client, despite the difficulties she had to face from the Home Office.” (Gary McIndoe, RAPAR Patron and Director of Latitude Law)
“I was proud to know and call Miwanda my friend. Her smile, her ability to laugh at the absurd, her genuine solidarity with all for social justice, and her fierce articulation when speaking truth to power: losing her is a huge loss but she helped, influenced and strengthened so many people to live on.
Sadly, Miwanda’s leaving of the UK more than a decade ago was grim, and an example that a ‘Hostile Environment’ has existed in the UK long before this current Government. That she left on her own terms, and to support her family and others, reminded all around her about what, ultimately, is important. I am glad we stayed in touch over the years. When my Mom died she was among the first to call. She shared this Mandela quote with me some years ago. ‘As the years progress one increasingly realises the importance of friendship and human solidarity. And if a 90-year-old may offer some unsolicited advice on this occasion, it would be that you, irrespective of your age, should place human solidarity, the concern for the other, at the centre of the values by which you live.’ She always encouraged, supported and loved as a Mama, Sister and Friend.” (Jason Bergen)
“We were all shocked and saddened to hear of your mother’s passing. Our thoughts are with you. It is not easy to express how we shall miss her. Your mother was a fighter for justice and equality and that is something that cannot be forgotten easily. I know how wonderful and supportive she was to you all, and I can imagine the emptiness that you are all feeling without her, but I hope you can find solace in the memory of who your mother was. May her soul rest in peace.” (Zeinab Mohammed, RAPAR Matron)
Some words now from Anna Maria Miwanda Bagenda’s Children, Nantalaga, Juliet Ssanyu and James:
“We thank the almighty God for the gift of our mother, for the time we spent with her. We called her Lixa. She was a loving mother who taught us to be independent early on in life. From her we learned to treasure friends and to love God. We are proud of all she achieved and, even when the storms came, she always remained true to herself. She made friends faster than anyone we know. We are grateful for the time we spent with her; in her moments of illness, we are glad we were there. She remained herself even when we suspected what was coming. We thank God that he chose to cut short her pain. Lixa, May the Good Lord give you peace in His Kingdom. When God took you back He said, ‘'Hallelujah, you're home’ (Ed Sheehan).”
Miwanda’s last communication as Matron of RAPAR was in February of this year. In it she discussed the ‘Voluntary’ Returns in The Community that the Home Office is currently trying to roll out across the UK:
“I am glad that something is still going on raising such major issues in the lives of the affected people. ‘Voluntary’ can mean different things, the way I see it, but to return to a country where one escaped death, imprisonment etc. in the first place!!!!! Well, we know what I know, what I have gone through in order to remain alive. I also know what the word ‘Voluntary’ means, in the case of people seeking asylum. It is mockery of justice to force them to accept to return voluntarily to their home countries or even the third country. Love to you all, Friends, and thanks for ringing the bell.”
In Lusaana, in the District of Kalungu, sixty kilometres from Kampala, the capital of Uganda, Anna Maria’s Children buried their Mother in the ground of her Father’s ancestral home.
Her smile, her drive, her fearlessness and her generosity of spirit live on.
Dr Rhetta Moran, for RAPAR, 13th June 2018.
"Former refugee Farheen Raja got the biggest cheer at the Stand Up To Racism Summit in Manchester."
RAPAR member, Farheen, who has just recently won her right to remain in the UK spoke out against racism and Trump's policy of family separation in the USA.
Hello there, I am Farheen Raja the Mancunian. originally from Pakistan. Here today representing the human rights organisation RAPAR where I have been a member for 10 years.
Three weeks ago , after fighting for my very survival in this country for those 10 years, I secured 5 years leave to remain - the government said I can live here for the next five years.
Today we all are gathered here against racism which is continuously spreading everywhere around the world specially against Migrants.
I had tears of rage when I heard about Trump's recent action in separating children from their parents. That happened in USA But unfortunately the same thing has been happening here in Britain. Trump does these brutal acts openly whereas In Britain they do it undercover.
The Government treat Migrants worse than Criminals. They treat them like they have no right to be on earth! for Migrants they have a life but they are in an open prison, faceless dying slowly slowly & this is completely unacceptable! If you don't feel that pain, that hate, that hurt, imagine being in a situation where you live but die everyday. There's nothing in this world more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscious stupidity.
And but I’m glad that we have here this incredible opportunity where we have been taught that it does not matter where you're from, it does not matter your color. your race or your religion. it's about the content of your character. it's about your values. we should do something that unites people rather than that divides us.
I'm here speaking behalf of so many young people who are suffering. Their rights have been taken away from them. it's their life but they have no rights in their own lives. Moreover, it's very easy for us to say that we live in multicultural society and so called everyone has equal opportunities but no. A poor migrant is a migrant that's how the government discriminate people & show the innocents that they are inferior.
Listen everyone, it's not just enough to make legislation and lean back against racism, we have to fight against racism everyday, in practice. We have to tackle and expose the racists until we secure peace. Until then, this struggle won’t stop.
We all must continue to do things that help people who are surviving racism everyday to fight together foster in comprehensive ways and that is only possible by achieving economic equality, education and creating understanding that we do not need to fear differences but to embrace them to teach the people here to love each other and have empathy. We should celebrate diversity instead to ignore it.
This only comes when you and I engage with people at both a social and community level. It will only come when u and I raise a voice with young people who put their faith in you. Remember we could save generations and generations because how we act teaches our new generation our lessons. It's time to stand up with all those innocents in the river in which they cried we need to take a ladder and build up a bridge to climb out and away from that river of tears.
Finally no matter where we are from, no matter we are Asian black or white We are all here - this is our home we have to save it.
We are all one.
Farheen finished her address with one of her poems written during her time in the asylum system.
See the full video below.