PM's offer to look 'sympathetically' at asylum cases gives hope to Lay Naing

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Indy Politics

Lay Naing listened intently in the House of Commons yesterday as Gordon Brown faced accusations of "hypocrisy" over his Government's treatment of Burmese asylum-seekers.

The 34-year-old IT lecturer and pro-democracy campaigner from Rangoon is fighting to remain in Britain after twice having asylum applications rejected. He fears immediate imprisonment if he is forced to return to the homeland he fled in terror nearly two years ago. Mr Brown promised to look "sympathetically" at cases like Mr Naing's after the Government was condemned over the treatment of Burmese asylum seekers during Prime Minister's Question Time. Hope has been raised.

Damian Green, the shadow Immigration minister, raised the treatment of Burmese asylum-seekers after The Independent highlighted Mr Naing's case last week and pledged to send Mr Brown details.

Mr Naing who was jailed and tortured in Burma for distributing literature about the Burmese regime's murder of civilians in 2003, was in the Commons to see the reply. He said last night: "When I heard the word Burma my heart was pounding. If I saw Mr Brown I would say, look at my case. That is all I can ask. If I had the chance I would like to be allowed to stay here for a while and when my country is independent from this regime I would like to go home. There is nowhere better than home.

"I don't know what my future will bring. I will dance with the music. Sometimes I'm very scared and I'm worried about my family back home."

He called on Mr Brown to "take some real action" .

He said: "He needs to keep the pressure on China and India. I'm happy he is trying to step up sanctions, but what he says is not enough. I know my government and the only language they understand is force."

The shadow Immigration minister challenged Mr Brown in the Commons, declaring: "The Prime Minister recently described Burma as one of the world's darkest corners and said that human rights were universal, but his Government are still trying to deport Burmese dissidents into the hands of that dreadful regime. Will he tell the House why his moral compass has failed to identify this transparent hypocrisy?"

Mr Brown replied: "I will certainly look at any individual cases that the honourable gentleman brings to me, and look at them sympathetically, but there is an appeals system and that will be dealt with.

Donna Covey, chief executive of the Refugee Council, said: "It is hugely frustrating that while the Prime Minister clearly recognises the terrible acts of persecution occurring in countries such as Burma, the Government is continuing to try to remove people seeking safety here in the UK."

Mark Farmaner, chief executive of the Burma Campaign UK, welcomed Mr Brown's strong personal position on Burma, but said: "We would like to see the Prime Minister go further and completely stop all deportations to Burma."