Clergymen pressing for a halt to deportations

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Indy Lifestyle Online
A delegation of high-ranking London clergymen is meeting Charles Wardle, Under-Secretary of State at the Home Office, to call for a moratorium on the deportation of Zairean refugees.

The Bishop of Barking, the Right Rev Roger Sainsbury, and the Roman Catholic Bishop in East London, the Right Rev Victor Guazzelli, are heading the delegation to the minister on 14 July.

They claim all refugees living in London face persecution if they are forced to return to the central African country.

According to Zairean community groups there are about 5,000 Zairean refugees in London. But it is not known how many live under threat of deportation. 'The situation in Zaire is horrific, said Bishop Sainsbury. 'It is too dangerous for anyone to go back.

Zaire is suffering under the repressive regime of President Mobutu Sese Seko, and detentions without trial are common. The clergymen are highlighting the case of Kalunga Lemba, 29, a Zairean under threat of deportation.

Mr Lemba arrived in September 1991 as a political refugee and has been detained since February 1993. His last appeal was rejected in January and in March he went on a 13-day hunger strike. He awaits deportation in Pentonville prison.

Clive Furness, a barrister of the human rights group, North East London Advocacy, is campaigning and collecting a petition on Mr Lemba's behalf. He said: 'The Home Office has accepted he was active in Zairean politics and that he was tortured. If he returns to Zaire he will be arrested and disappear.

Mr Lemba was a member of the Republican Independence Party and the Union for Fed-eral and Republican Independence in Zaire. A report by the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture found 37 scars on his body consistent with a beating with a metal-tipped whip.

'We understand that the president's personal guard is now stationed at airports, which makes it hazardous for any returning refugees from London, said Mr Furness.

Bishop Guazzelli feels uneasy about the Zaireans' treatment. 'About 90 per cent of Zaireans who come to Britain are thrown out. They come here fleeing persecution and are sent back again into an unstable situation.

In 1991, 7,010 Zaireans arrived in Britain, and 720 were refused asylum. In 1992, 880 arrived and 756 were refused. In the first half of 1993, 390 arrived and 1,460 were refused. The remainder - most of whom live in London - are awaiting a decision.

The Home Office said: 'If new information is presented on Mr Lemba's behalf it will be considered.'