Wales

Asylum seeker who fled DR Congo returns to Swansea

Otis Bolamu Image copyright HBTSR
Image caption Otis Bolamu came to the UK after friends told him his life was in "severe danger"

A man who was detained and threatened with deportation over Christmas has returned to Swansea after 3,000 people signed a petition to let him stay.

Otis Bolamu, 38, said his life would be in danger if he was forced to return to his home country - the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Friends in his homeland told him he was suspected of spying for the opposition and in "severe danger".

He has been granted permission to stay in Swansea until his appeal is heard.

Mr Bolamu said: "The country [DR Congo] is not good, it's sad. People fighting, crying, dying. In the country you can't speak anymore."

Mr Bolamu said he had been arrested in DR Congo because he had done "too much speaking about the politics".

Speaking about his detention, he said: "You're sleeping and it's quick, you understand; someone beat your door and the police say, I need to come with you to deport you.

"When the situation was spoken to me they said I need to go back. I said no, because when I go back I will be arrested. They will kill me.

"I never drink, I never eat [for] ten days. It was difficult."

He added: "The people of Swansea's fantastic [and] the UK, because the petition is not just from Swansea, it's from the UK - Cardiff, Scotland, Europe, Congo.

"I can say just thank you. Thank you [to] the MP, thank you [to] the responsible political [administrators] from this country. Not just from Swansea, from everywhere.

"I love people in Swansea, I will stay in Swansea. Swansea's the best. I can say thank you."

'Alarming'

Swansea council leader Rob Stewart said his removal was "alarming" and he was concerned with the manner in which Mr Bolamu was detained and was set to be deported before his appeal had been heard.

"As a city of sanctuary we want to see people supported and feeling safe and we hope now this case can be brought to a resolution so that Otis can have a secure future where ever he intends to reside," he said.

Swansea West MP Geraint Davies said he told the Home Office Mr Bolamu was tortured in prison in DR Congo and asked them to reconsider.

A Home Office spokeswoman said: "The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection. All asylum claims lodged in the UK are carefully considered on their individual merits against a background of relevant case law and up to date country information."

Mr Bolamu volunteers at a charity bookshop in Swansea, and his colleagues are urging the Home Office to reconsider his case.

Bethan Havard, who also works at the shop, said: "He's touched everyone's hearts because he is such a jolly person, he's always got a smile on his face, always ready to help."

Mr Bolamu said his volunteering had been repaid because of the support and advocacy he had received from people and organisations who knew him through his work.

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