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VOL­UN­TEER IS RE­LEASED BUT ASY­LUM FIGHT GOES ON

South Wales Evening Post - - FRONT PAGE - KATIE BELLIS @katiebel­lis • 01792 545539 [email protected]­line.co.uk

A CHAR­ITY vol­un­teer threat­ened with de­por­ta­tion on Christ­mas Day has been re­leased from de­ten­tion.

Otis Bo­lamu was taken away from his Swansea home in the early hours of De­cem­ber 19 to a re­moval cen­tre at Gatwick.

More than 12,000 peo­ple signed an on­line pe­ti­tion urg­ing the UK Govern­ment not to de­port Mr Bo­lamu.

How­ever, the BBC re­ported that his so­lic­i­tor Jamie Bell said that while the 38-year-old has been re­leased, fur­ther sub­mis­sions must be made be­fore a de­ci­sion is made on whether he will be granted asy­lum.

It is claimed Mr Bo­lamu is par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble, as he is said to have fled the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo after cam­paign­ing against the regime.

He was sus­pected of spy­ing for the op­po­si­tion and sup­port­ers said he was in “se­vere dan­ger”.

He was re­fused leave to re­main in Au­gust and has ap­pealed that de­ci­sion. Mean­while, Mr Bo­lamu has been vol­un­teer­ing for Ox­fam. He said: “I am not hor­ri­ble, I’m not a crim­i­nal, I never had one let­ter ex­plain­ing what was hap­pen­ing or to pre­pare my case. I never had the op­por­tu­nity to call my so­lic­i­tor, my friends or Ty Hafan.

“I’ve been in de­ten­tion and it’s not been good. Christ­mas for me, it means some­thing to cel­e­brate, it’s a good time, I’m a Christian, it’s an im­por­tant time.

“But I was cry­ing be­cause no-one was with me, I was just alone, I was afraid. It was so bad.

“I didn’t eat or drink any­thing in 10 days, the doc­tor came and told me to eat but I said ‘never.’”

The Guardian pre­vi­ously re­ported that Mr Bo­lamu had been tor­tured by his govern­ment be­fore flee­ing to the UK. He was im­pris­oned for nine days but es­caped when a friend of his fa­ther’s paid a bribe to the mil­i­tary.

He says that he started to eat and drink again after real­is­ing the amount of sup­port he had.

“After Christ­mas I had the op­por­tu­nity to have my phone,” said Mr Bo­lamu. On De­cem­ber 26 or 27 I started to eat and drink wa­ter again as I re­alised the sup­port I had.

“Peo­ple phoned me so much, I kept hav­ing a low bat­tery. Peo­ple were telling me to be strong.”

Mr Bo­lamu has made many friends while vol­un­teer­ing in the city’s Ox­fam book­shop on Cas­tle Street and has been shocked by the amount of sup­port he has re­ceived.

“Ty Hafan and the peo­ple of Swansea have helped me so much, thank you, to the char­ity, com­mu­nity, church, MPS, stu­dents. I didn’t think that all these peo­ple would be talk­ing about my case, it’s so nice.”

He has also had sup­port from sev­eral MPS. Swansea West MP Geraint Davies was one of the peo­ple who took up Mr Bo­lamu’s case. Plaid Cymru leader and Car­marthen East and Dine­fwr AM, Adam Price, also urged the Home Of­fice not to de­port Mr Bo­lamu while First Min­is­ter Mark Drake­ford con­tacted Home Sec­re­tary Sa­jid Javid ask­ing him to look into the case as a mat­ter of ur­gency and Labour MP Geraint Davies also wel­comed Otis home on Thurs­day.

How­ever, when Mr Bo­lamu re­turned to his house on Thurs­day he re­alised his be­long­ings were miss­ing.

“All my clothes and pa­per from my case were gone. All I have is the clothes that I am wear­ing now,” he said.

South Wales Po­lice has been asked to com­ment.

Pic­ture: Robert Me­len

Asy­lum seeker, Otis Bo­lamu, who has been re­leased from de­ten­tion.

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