21/12/2007

Paisley Backs Asylum Call

The Assembly First Minister has backed attempts by a Congolese man to remain in Northern Ireland.

Paul Kazadi M'Wepu has claimed he will face certain death if his family is deported back to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo.

His final appeal is in the hands of the Home Secretary and if rejected he could be sent back within days. The family hopes that the Rev Ian Paisley's support for their campaign will pressurise Jacqui Smith into reconsidering the deportation.

Paul Kazadi M'Wepu said: "Every night I have nightmares because they can come any time and pick me up. I really live in constant fear..."

Mr Kazadi said an appeal was his final chance.

"If I am sent back to the Congo I will be put in prison and killed. I don't have any more appeals... this is my last hope," he insisted.

Mr Kazadi said he and his wife, Arleth, were accused of being political dissidents in Congo, imprisoned and tortured.

He alleged they were separated from each other and suffered physical and mental torture before they managed to escape.

The couple fled through Tanzania, to London, and settled in south Belfast in June 2005.

Mr Paisley acknowledged the distress the family was under.

"Mr and Mrs Kazadi are in real fear of being sent back to the Democratic Republic of Congo and I would appeal to the Immigration Services to reconsider this case, apply some common sense and grant permission for the family to stay here as soon as possible," he said.

Mr Kazadi was granted a work permit and worked on the ferry between Belfast and Stranraer.

The family are active members of an Elim Pentecostal Church and Mr Kazadi was baptised as a Christian there in October last year. In December 2005 they had a daughter, Benita, born in the Royal Victoria Hospital.

Mrs Kazadi is three months pregnant.

"I have great happiness for Belfast. I've made a lot of friends here and this is really my home place," Mr Kazadi said.

Amnesty and the South Belfast MLA, Anna Lo, asked for the Government to show compassion and release them for Christmas.

(BMcC)

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