Wednesday, 26 September 2007

Gay Congolese asylum seeker: ‘You’ve saved my life’

Source: Tameside Advertiser

By Eve Dugdale

An asylum seeker who has been granted permission to stay in the UK says the people of Tameside have saved his life.

We first featured a story about Congolese national Innocent Nkung two years ago. He came to England after being tortured and raped in his home country when he was thrown in jail for campaigning for democracy in a country ravaged by civil war.

The 37-year-old philosophy graduate witnessed acts of decapitation and cannibalism before he escaped and found a safe haven in the home of a family in Ashton.

Innocent, who worked tirelessly as a volunteer in Tameside, received support from fellow parishioners at St John's church in Hurst Cross as well as MP David Heyes, Tameside Green Party and other students at Tameside College.

Residents, musician Aidan Jolly, comedian and Phoenix Nights star Justin Moorhouse and well-known Respect MP George Galloway all backed a campaign launched by the Advertiser and Denton MP Andrew Gwynne.

A 4,199-signature petition was presented to the House of Commons to demonstrate public support for his case.

After three appeals of a decision to send him back to the Democratic Republic of Congo - a country where millions have been brutally murdered in the last decade - he received the news he had been granted status as a 'refugee' on Friday.

"I'm so happy that I can stay," said Innocent, who now lives in Salford.

"I'm going to be protected. I'm very very grateful for all the support I received from the people in Tameside and, as you know, my campaign started with people in Tameside.

"I thank the Tameside Advertiser for their promotion and local people who came together to look after me, the people of Tameside were with me at the beginning and at the end and I'm very grateful.

"They have done a great job, they have saved my life.

"I also thank some councillors from Tameside Council who wrote to the Home Office and made representations on my behalf and also David Heyes. He has done a great job in supporting me - he has been wonderful."

Innocent will continue to work at the Congo Support Project which he set up in Higher Broughton earlier this year.
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