Church plea: Don’t deport out volunteer

News story
News story

PRAYERS have been offered for the future of a popular church-goer living in Wigan after he was dramatically seized by immigration officers.

Torture victim Sabiti Mugara, who fled to the UK from the Democratic Republic of Congo, was detained at a routine hearing in Manchester and sent to a holding centre for deportations in London.

From being moved to the holding centre Sabiti has been treated as a prisoner, in a locked compound. After waiting for 18 months with all the freedoms he was granted, for these to be withdrawn in this abrupt manner treats people as numbers and with contempt

Mr Mugara, who was forced to leave his family in a refugee camp in Uganda to make the hazardous journey to start a new life in the UK, faced the authorities on Monday for the appeal against an earlier decision to refuse his asylum bid.

Although Mr JF Pullig, presiding over the case, ordered the fast-track status to be removed, Mr Mugara’s ultimate fate remains unknown as the case has now been adjourned.

Mr Mugara has been a regular worshipper at Wigan Parish Church for around 18 months and become a popular member of the congregation as a hard-working volunteer helping out at many church events.

Some parishioners were so concerned about the outcome of the hearing they travelled to London to offer support, and an article

appeared in the parish magazine about it, offering prayers for MrMugara.

The article said: “Sabiti had been a weekly communicant with us. He helped in the church shop and washed the dishes every day during our summer project last year of running Fur Clemt, our junk food cafe.

“In all his time he has never once asked for any handout, he has been volunteering and only wants to work and give of his ability.

“From being moved to the holding centre Sabiti has been treated as a prisoner, in a locked compound. After waiting for 18 months with all the freedoms he was granted, for these to be withdrawn in this abrupt manner treats people as numbers and with contempt.”

Mr Mugara was detained during one of the regular visits he must make to Dallas Court in Manchester to report to Home Office officials.

After being moved to the holding centre near Heathrow Airport he was told he would be interviewed about his application for the right to remain in the UK, even though his case worker had told him for a year that the hearing would take place in the North West.

His request for asylum was turned down but at the appeal interview at the Hatton Cross fast track centre this week Mr Pullig ordered the case to be re-classified.

No date has been given for the next hearing, and it is not clear if Mr Mugara has been remanded in custody or is free to return to Wigan.

A Home Office spokesman said: “This case is subject to the appeals process and we are unable to comment at this time.”

Asylum seekers do not get any choice about where they live while they await a decision on their applications, but are allocated to towns and cities according to a quota system.

Charities working with asylum seekers in the borough have previously criticised the fast-track system, saying the threat of ending up in a cell hovers over people’s heads every time they go to Manchester to register and raising concerns about racial profiling and attitudes among the security firms given contracts to detain and transport asylum seekers to the holding centres.