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Christian man's Christmas Day deportation delayed by community

by Cara Bentley

Otis Bolamu is from the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and says he would be imprisoned by the DRC government, whom he worked for, if he returned because of his opposition to them and his work on fair and open elections. 

He came to the UK this year after hearing that he was being suspected of spying on the government and is a member of the political movement Apareco in the UK, one of the main Congolese opposition groups here.

The Home Office were planning to deport Bolamu on Christmas Day after taking him into detention at 4am on 19th December from Swansea to Brook House near Gatwick, ready to put him on a plane on the 25th. 

Otis Bolamu is a practising Christian, actively involved in his local church and was planning to spend Christmas Day with his church friends.

A petition set up for him says: "All he wants is to be able to worship at his church on Christmas Day. Instead, he is being sent into harm's way, with unseemly haste, on the most sacred of all days for Christians, whilst the rest of us will be celebrating.

"This is a cruel example of the hostile environment at work. Such an action is not at all compatible with the Christmas message of love and compassion."

The petition currently has 8,301 signatures to protect him from further deportation, signed by many people from Hay Festival and Oxfam where he volunteered. 

Adam Price, the leader of the Welsh party, Plaid Cymru, wrote a letter to the Home Secretary Sajid Javid, saying: "Though the speed and manner of Mr Bolamu's deportation are an affront to most people's sense of justice and due process, the fact that he is due to be forcibly removed on a day that celebrates the birth of the most notable asylum seeker in history is to many a symbol of an immigration policy that is both inhumane and, in terms of morality, un-Christian."

The group Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) told their supporters on Facebook that his immediate deportation had been cancelled: "Over 6000 signed an online petition in only a few hours, a hastily organised protest in Swansea City centre was well attended and local figures including MPs and AMs all put out statements of support.

"We still wait to hear if the deportation order has been totally cancelled or just postponed, and if Otis is to be released, so we need to continue to keep up the momentum against what must be one of the cruellest examples of May's 'hostile environment'."

The Swansea branch of SUTR stated that Mr Bolamu will unlikely be deported for at least three months. 

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