By Harmit Athwal
Innocent Nkung, a 35-year-old asylum seeker from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), suffered such homophobic and political persecution that he had to flee the DRC and is now fighting to stay in the UK after his asylum claim was refused.
Innocent, who has a background in campaigning on human rights issues had been arrested in the DRC a number of times between 1992 and 2005. For example, he was arrested and detained in June 2004 after taking part in a demonstration against the UN's failure to act after the Rwandan army entered the Bukavu province.
More recently, Innocent was arrested in January 2005, after being stopped carrying leaflets promoting a demonstration that he had helped to organise. Following this arrest, he was given the 'option' of a 15-year jail term or 'volunteering' for Secret Service Training. After he refused to kill others as part of this 'training', he was incarcerated in the notorious Buluwo prison, where he was raped, beaten and tortured.
Innocent was 'lucky'. He managed to escape from Buluwo prison and reached the UK in May 2005 where he claimed asylum. But in December 2005, the Home Office refused Innocent's asylum claim. However, a fresh asylum claim with new evidence will be submitted in a few weeks by a new solicitor and he will await a decision from the Home Office. Innocent is no longer entitled to support from the National Asylum Support Service (NASS) and will be unable to claim support unless the Home Office now accepts his fresh asylum claim.
Innocent's life would be in danger if he were deported to the DRC as he comes from a political background and has campaigned against the policies of the government. Asylum seekers deported back to DRC are not routinely monitored by the Home Office and there are reports that people have been beaten and assaulted by the authorities. Recently, a BBC World Service reporter Jenny Cuffe travelled to the DRC where she found that some asylum seekers effectively 'disappeared' after being deported to the country. (See IRR News story: Pressure to end returns to DRC.) Deportations to DRC have been halted by the Netherlands after it was revealed that confidential information on deportees had been revealed to the Congolese authorities.
Innocent has contributed to the community to which he was dispersed - Ashton under Lyne in Tameside; he works on a voluntary basis translating and interpreting from French into English and he is studying English while active as secretary of the Tameside African Refugee Association.
Innocent told IRR news: 'It is awful to live in England as an asylum seeker. If I call what I and others in the DRC have been through as physical torture, I realise there is another torture in England - a mental one and it is greater than the first one: I can't sleep because there are a lot of thoughts in my head and feelings - nightmares and flashbacks. I am very depressed and unable to do things. I think about my children, parents, brothers and sisters that I didn't see since 1995. My children need to be cared for and I can't do my father's job if I am in jail or dead.
'My life doesn't belong to me anymore and other people decide about it. I don't know what is going to happen in my life, I don't know where I am going to live, I don't know what I am going to eat. Everything is in the Home Office people's hands.
'Furthermore, being a destitute asylum seeker is unbelievable. It is ridiculous that I have to open up all my small life's details to people just because I need a permission to stay in order to avoid persecution. Please support my case and help the Home Office to act in humanity.'