About Lydia and Bernard

THE TIMES  

Friday, 24th February 2012 

Subject: Britain ‘denying help to women fleeing rape and persecution’

The Times, by Anushka Asthana 

“Women fleeing to Britain after suffering persecution and rape face a “culture of disbelief”, leading lawyers have told the Home Secretary. 

A letter signed by Baroness Kennedy of the Shaws, QC, the human rights lawyer, and Lord Macdonald of River Glaven, QC, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, among others, calls on Theresa May to take urgent action.

“We are concerned that too many women are effectively being denied the protection that the UK has a legal and moral obligation to provide for those fleeing persecution,” it says.

It claims that women fleeing “gender-related persecution” are being refused asylum by officials for “irrational and flawed reasons.” 

The concerns were triggered by the case of Lydia Besong, a Cameroonian playwright who sought asylum on the grounds that she had been imprisoned and raped in her home country and would be tortured if she returned. She has struggled to gain access to legal aid and was twice detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre.

Ms Besong, who has received support from Michael Morpurgo, the author of War Horse, Monica Ali, who wrote Brick Lane, and the playwright Alan Ayckbourn, still does not have leave to remain.

Her lawyer, Gary McIndoe, said that the evidence of detention and rape was rejected on “weak grounds”. Border officials decided that she was not being honest about her level of political activism, and on that ground alone must not be telling the truth about her attack. 

Lady Kennedy said the way Ms Besong and her husband were suddenly detained without being informed that their claim was being refused was insensitive and unjust. They have since been released and are preparing to appeal.

The QC added: “The Home Office and the UKBA [UK Border Agency] are failing women. There are serious concerns about the culture of disbelief in the immigration system, and how the lack of training and lack of willingness to listen means that women who have experienced sexual violence are not taken seriously. There is an ongoing lack of understanding of why it is women seek asylum and a lack of dignity and respect in the process.”

John Cooper, QC, another signatory, argued that women were being “betrayed” by the system meant to protect them. He accused the Government of having dual standards: “If a woman alleging sexual abuse in this country was treated so callously there would be widespread condemnation, with ministers and the legal system as a whole being held to account.”

Natasha Walter, of Women for Refugee Women, said: “It is striking that so many leading voices for justice are now calling for a fairer hearing for women in the asylum process. Women who come to this country fleeing persecution are too often denied access to justice. We urge the Home Secretary to answer these concerns.” 

A UKBA official said: “We carefully consider all applications on their individual merits, and will offer protection to those who genuinely need it. When an asylum application is refused, the individual has a right to appeal against the decision to the Immigration and Asylum Chamber.

“If an individual chooses not to appeal and they fail to leave voluntarily, we will seek to enforce their removal.”  

END

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About Lydia and Bernard

Posted on January 18, 2012 by 

NOVEMBER 2011

Lydia, an English  teacher in Cameroon and Bernard (who ran his own building supplies business) sought asylum in the UK on 18/12/06.  

Their asylum claim is based on their being persecuted by the Cameroon Government for their political activities with the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC); a peaceful political organisation which campaigns for equal rights for the English-speaking minority of Southern Cameroon within the predominately French speaking country of Cameroon.  http://www.scncforsoutherncameroons.net/

Before their arrival in the UK, Lydia was wanted by the Gendarme because of her connections with and work for the SCNC.  Bernard were arrested at home when Gendarme officers went to arrest Lydia and did not find her there.  They detained Bernard for a week, imprisoned him and beat him so badly that he had to be taken to hospital for treatment.  Whilst in the hospital he managed to escape from his guards.  With the financial help of associates they both fled Cameroon and arrived in the UK on 18 Dec 2006, where they legitimately made a claim with the UKBA for asylum.

Lydia had been arrested and imprisoned on several occasions prior to the last attempt to detain her.  She has suffered beatings, tortured and rape by uniformed guards.  She has physical scars that testify to the torture she was subjected to.  There was and is no recourse of appeal or justice for them in Cameroon in 2006 and there will be none if they are ever returned there.  

In December 2009 their claim for asylum was turned down by UKBA and Lydia was detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre with the intention of deporting her.  She came within 72 hours of deportation.  Bernard was also to be deported but the UKBA officers failed to pick him up.  A campaign to gain Lydia’s release saw an overwhelming response from individuals  and communities across Greater Manchester and beyond.  A High Court judge granted an injunction to prevent the couple’s deportation from the UK until  new evidence had been presented and considered.

In July 2011, Lydia was part of a delegation of women asylum seekers WomenAsylum Seekers Together (WAST) which went to Liverpool to hand in a list of ‘recommendations’ to the UKBA offices there.  The booklet details the failings of the current asylum system in its dealing with women and children asylum seekers.  The booklet makes positive and easily implementable suggestions for change in the current system.  

To date, there has been no response to this booklet by either the UKBA, the Secretary for Immigration or the Home Office.  

A copy of the booklet is posted on the WAST website.http://www.wast.org.uk/

On 5th September 2011 the UKBA again attempted to deport the couple. Bernard was detained by UKBA officers and sent to Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, near Heathrow with the intent of putting him on a flight on Saturday 10th September.  Again, his laywers sought legal intervention and a Court injunction was issued on Friday 9th September to prevent his removal from the UK.  He was eventually released from detention on 29th September and has since made a fresh claim for asylum; the outcome of which is still pending.

Since Bernard’s release from detention on 29th September he has had to sign twice a week at Dallas Court; each Tuesday and Friday.  This is a very unusual situation and Bernard and his legal team have asked why he has to sign twice a week but the UKBA refuse to give an answer.  It takes two hours to get to Dallas Court via bus from Bury and two hours to get back again, a round trip of 4 hours travelling, twice a week.  

Bernard had his new claim interview at Liverpool UKBA offices in October 2011.  Since then his solicitor has been hard working on preparing his full case with expert witness reports and affidavits from affiliates in Cameroon.   Bernard’s claim has now been filed with the UKBA.

The chairman of the SCNC in Cameroon has affirmed that Lydia and Bernard were active human rights practitioners in Cameroon.  Their continued human rights work whilst they have been in the UK stands as a testimony to the fact that they are genuine human rights campaigners, both in Cameroon and now in the UK.   Bernard and Lydia have worked tirelessly at RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seekers Participatory Action Research) and WAST (Women Asylum-Seekers Together) with refugees in similar situations to their own.

Lydia’s play How I Became An Asylum Seeker has been performed in Manchester, Salford, Liverpool and London, and is available on DVD.  An article about the play has appeared in The Guardian and Lydia’s campaign has been supported by the Bishop of Manchester and actor Juliet Stevensen.

Her next play ‘ Down with the Dictator’ is currently in production in Manchester and will be performed at the end of March in Bristol and at venues around Greater Manchester.

Their continuing human rights work in the UK stands as a testimony to their being experienced and committed human rights campaigners.  Bernard and Lydia have worked tirelessly at RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seekers Participatory Action Research) and WAST (Women Asylum-Seekers Together) with refugees in similar situations to their own.

Bernard is a much loved and valued member of Bury Acapeelers Community Choir (www.acapeelers.co.uk).  He has the deepest bass voice many have ever heard!  He loves singing, he loves the choir and he is sorely missed by his fellow bass singers and other choir members.  Choir members have written to their various MPs, the Home Secretary and Immigration Secretary demanding that the decision to remove him from the UK be overturned once and for all.

In 2010 Lydia was diagnosed with glaucoma.  She is 40years old and her medical condition is unstable and very advanced.  She requires on-going treatment and further operations in order to prevent her losing her sight.  She is being treated at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and needs to maintain her regular medical check-ups and her daily medication regime.  If she is deported she will not have any access to medical treatment and she will lose her eyesight.

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PRESS RELEASE: 17th January 2012

LYDIA BESONG  FACES FORCED REMOVAL FROM UK AS REHEARSALS START ON HER LATEST PLAY

  • Lydia and her husband Bernard facing forced removal from UK to Cameroon on Saturday, January 21st, 2012                                                                   
  • Lawyers working to stop flight as leading writers and campaign supporters lobby Home Secretary

Leading writers in the UK have put their names to an Open Letter in support of Cameroon  playwright Lydia Besong and her husband Bernard Batey – as rehearsals start on her latest work, Down with the Dictator.

Lydia is currently detained in Yarl’s Wood, Bedfordshire, and Bernard in Morton Hall, Lincoln. They are facing forced removal from the UK on Saturday, January 21st, following the refusal of Bernard’s protection claim. The UK Border Agency has also refused them the right to appeal from within the UK.

The couple are both members of the SCNC, a peaceful organisation campaigning for the independence of Southern Cameroon, and fled their home country just over five years ago after they were persecuted, imprisoned and tortured.

Speaking from Yarl’s Wood, Lydia  said she was pleased to hear that rehearsals on her play were going ahead and added: “It is very important that the rehearsals continue because it means my voice is still being heard.”

Down with the Dictator explores themes of power, political corruption and censorship in all its absurdity and shows why so many people around the world are forced to flee from oppressive regimes. The play is produced by Manchester-based Community Arts North West as part of Exodus, their Refugee Arts programme. Director is Magdalen Bartlett who also directed Lydia’s acclaimed play How I Became An Asylum Seeker.

Magdalen said the actors – who themselves have had experience of oppressive regimes – are all extremely passionate about the play and are working on it voluntarily. They were shocked to hear of Lydia and Bernard’s detention but are determined that her latest work will reach audiences in the UK.   The play is due to be performed at COAST International Festival of Community Theatre in Bristol at the end of March, and also at two venues in Greater Manchester which are still to be confirmed.

In July last year, leading writers and actors in the UK sent an Open Letter to The Guardian, drawing attention to Lydia’s case.  Women for Refugee Women and English PEN, which campaigns for persecuted writers nationally and internationally, have put together a similar Open Letter from high profile writers which has already been sent to Home Secretary Theresa May.  Writers who have signed the letter include War Horse author Michael Morpurgo, Hanif Kureishi, Monica Ali, Joan Bakewell and Nick Hornby. Leading lawyer Baroness Helena Kennedy and actor Juliet Stevenson have also put their names to the Open Letter.

Lydia and Bernard have a large number of supporters throughout the UK and particularly in Greater Manchester.  They lived in Rochdale for three years before being moved to Bury where they are members of the AcaPeelers’ Choir.

Campaigners are urging supporters to write to Home Secretary Theresa May and Immigration Minister Damian Green immediately, demanding that the couple remain in the UK. 

Lydia was detained almost a week ago when she reported at Dallas Court in Salford and Bernard was snatched from the street near his home in Bury. They were only told after they were detained that Bernard’s protection claim had been refused and that they were also being denied the chance to appeal from within the UK. It was clear from paperwork issued to the couple that the decision had been taken before Christmas.

Last week, their solicitor Gary McIndoe said: “We have been waiting for a decision on Bernard’s protection claim since 19th October last year.  Further materials have been sent to the Home Office, including the report of an expert witness. I am surprised that the decision to detain has been made before their legal representatives have been informed in any way.”

ENDS

More details of the campaign can be found at: http://www.rapar.org.uk/lydia-and-bernard-must-stay.html AND AT https://lydiaandbernard.wordpress.com/

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Campaign to stop playwright Lydia Besong and her husband being deported to Cameroon

Campaign to stop playwright Lydia Besong and her husband being deported to Cameroon
English PEN and Women for Refugee Women have written an open letter to the Home Secretary Theresa May urging her to reconsider the case of playwright Lydia Besong and her husband Bernard Batey who face deportation on Saturday 21st January.

Lydia will be known to many in the Platforma network for her play How I Became An Asylum Seeker, and also for her inspirational participation in last month’s Platforma Festival in London. She is pictured below with actor Juliet Stevenson – photo courtesy of Women for Refugee Women.

Lydia was persecuted in Cameroon as a result of her peaceful political activities on behalf of the English-speaking minority in the country. She fled to the UK with her husband Bernard Batey and sought asylum.

Read more about her case and the action you can take to support her, including writing to the Home Secretary Theresa May: http://www.rapar.org.uk/5/post/2012/01/press-release-playwright-lydia-and-husband-bernard-snatched-for-the-4th-time.html





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CRUCIAL WEEK 18th – 21st January 2012

Please demand Lydia and Bernard’s immediate release by writing to your MP or Theresa May, Home Secretary or Damien Green, Minister for Immigration at The House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA 

Quoting case reference HOB1236372/3, stressing Lydia and Bernard’s urgent need for asylum and expressing your support for their right to remain in the UK –

Please cc your correspondence to Campaign group via lydiaandbernardmuststay@gmail.com

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Campaign Support Keeps Growing

Tuesday, 17th January 2012
17 January 2012
Celebrity support grows for refugee playwright
A letter expressing support for Lydia Besong has been sent to Home Secretary Theresa May signed by more than 30 leading writers and actors, including Monica Ali, Alan Ayckbourn, Joan Bakewell, Nick Hornby, Helena Kennedy, Caitlin Moran, Michael Morpurgo and Juliet Stevenson. (Full list of signatories below.) Lydia Besong is a playwright from Cameroon who sought asylum in the UK in 2006, and is currently in detention in the UK awaiting forced removal.
Lydia was persecuted in Cameroon as a result of her peaceful political activities on behalf of the English-speaking minority in the country, and was imprisoned and raped in prison. She fled here with her husband Bernard Batey and sought asylum. Since arriving in the UK she has written three plays, one of which, How I Became an Asylum Seeker, was performed in London in 2010 at an event produced by Women for Refugee Women and hosted by Juliet Stevenson. Another is currently in rehearsal with a performance scheduled for March.
Lydia and Bernard were taken into detention on 10 January 2012 even though they were still awaiting a decision from the Home Office on a protection claim filed in October last year. Prior to being detained, neither the couple nor their legal representatives had been told that this claim had been refused. Lydia is currently being held in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre and Bernard is being held in Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre. They have been given removal orders for this Saturday, 21 January, despite very real fears that they will face further persecution if returned.
The letter, which has been organised by English PEN and Women for Refugee Women, and signed by a number of leading writers, states: ”The UK should be proud to offer Lydia protection from the persecution she suffered in her home country.”
Natasha Walter, director of Women for Refugee Women and author of The New Feminism and Living Dolls, said, “Lydia’s courage and creativity is a real inspiration for those standing up to oppression. It is shocking to see how she has struggled to get a fair hearing in the UK asylum process.”
Gillian Slovo, novelist and president of English PEN, said, “On behalf of English PEN, I urge the government to stop Lydia’s deportation as well as the deportation of her husband to a country that continues to use force to silence its critics.”
Juliet Stevenson, actress, said: “Lydia Besong is an incredibly courageous woman who has put her head above the parapet to talk about her experience and write her plays. This country should not send her back to a situation where she could be in very real danger.”
Michael Morpurgo, author of War Horse and ex-Children’s Laureate, said: “How this country treats asylum seekers is the measure of what kind of people we are. Lydia was oppressed in Cameroon. That there is risk she will be imprisoned and abused again seems undeniable. That she is extraordinarily brave in her stand against oppression is clear. And that her talents would be of great value to us as a citizen in our society would seem to be obvious. On these grounds, I would ask, beg, the Home Secretary,Theresa May, to look again, think again, and allow this remarkable woman the right to stay here and live amongst us.”
For more information please go to www.refugeewomen.co.uk or www.englishpen.org or email admin@refugeewomen.co.uk or writersinprison@englishpen.org, or telephone Women for Refugee Women on 020 7250 1239 or 07710 348048.
Full list of signatories:
Monica Ali
Lisa Appignanesi
Sir Alan Ayckbourn
Joan Bakewell
Susie Boyt
Aminatta Forna
Esther Freud
Linda Grant
Mark Haddon
Eva Hoffman
Nick Hornby
Helena Kennedy
Hanif Kureishi
Rebecca Lenkiewicz
Andrea Levy
Nell Leyshon
Hisham Matar
Caitlin Moran
Michael Morpurgo
Julie Myerson
Ruth Padel
Meg Rosoff
Carole Seymour-Jones
Kamila Shamsie
Gillian Slovo
Ali Smith
Juliet Stevenson
Salil Tripathi
Natasha Walter
Sarah Waters
Harriet Walter
Timberlake Wertenbaker
Precious Williams

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The support base for the campaign continues to grow and several high profile people in the public eye, including writers and the writers union English PEN, actors including Juliet Stevensen, the Rt Rev’d Nigel S McCulloch, Bishop of Manchester, Baroness Joan Bakewell, Barnoness Helena Kennedy, Baroness Oona King have all given their support backing to the campaign to allow Lydia and Bernard to remain in the UK where they are safe and free from threat of danger, arrest, imprisonment, torture and further persecution.

So far the list of supportive MPs includes: John Leech, David Crausby, Gerald Kaufman, Ivan Lewis, Dr Vince Cable, Simon Danczuk, Tony Lloyd, Fiona Mactaggart. If your MP has expressed support but is not on this list please let the campaign know so we can keep it up-to-date

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Justice for asylum seekers 60 years

http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2011/jul/27/justice-for-asylum-seekers

Letters: The Guardian Newspaper, Wednesday 27 July 2011 21.00 BST

On the 60th anniversary of the signing of the refugee convention, we are writing to express our concerns about the injustices still faced by many people who seek asylum in the UK. As writers, actors and broadcasters, we are particularly concerned about Lydia Besong, who is seeking asylum from Cameroon. Lydia and her husband, Bernard Batey, were members of an opposition political organisation and Lydia was imprisoned and experienced sexual violence in jail. Although she has well grounded fear of further persecution if returned to Cameroon, Lydia has been detained in the UK, and has recently been refused asylum or leave to appeal to the High Court.

As a playwright, Lydia has written about her experiences in her home country and in the UK. Her play, How I Became An Asylum Seeker, has been performed in Manchester, Liverpool and London by Lydia and fellow members of Women Asylum Seekers Together. This moving work shines a powerful light on the fact that many women come to this country fleeing persecution and yet are refused sanctuary here. Wast will be marching tomorrow in Liverpool to highlight the injustices experienced by asylum seekers. In speaking up for Lydia, we are speaking up for the rights to freedom of expression and to asylum. We urge members of the government and the public to join us in supporting Lydia and the rights of all refugees who seek safety today.

Gillian Slovo English PEN

Sarah Waters

Juliet Stevenson

Lisa Appignanesi

Joan Bakewell

Linda Grant

Martha Kuwee Kumsa

Rebecca Lenkiewicz

Andrea Levy

Nell Leyshon

Ali Smith

Harriet Walter

Timberlake Wertenbaker

Natasha Walter Women for Refugee Women

• We are writing as British Jews and Muslims, rabbis, imams and community leaders who share a commitment to fighting racism, anti-semitism and Islamophobia wherever they are found – including within our own communities. We wish to express concern at certain statements on English national identity, immigration and the English Defence Leaguemade by Ed Miliband‘s adviser, Maurice Glasman, the Labour peer and founder of “Blue Labour”. Glasman has spoken of his vision for Labour “to build a party that brokers a common good, that involves those people who support the EDL within our party”. In relation to asylum seekers, he has said it is not so that “everyone who comes is equal and has an equal status with people who are here”. He has also called for a complete halt to immigration, and implied he is against asylum (“Britain is not an outpost of the UN…”). These comments have caused some mosques to issue a prohibition against Glasman entering their premises. Whatever his aims, these sentiments give fodder to extremism. We feel it is important for Ed Miliband unambiguously and publicly to dissociate himself from them.

Sheikh Dr Muhammad Al-Hussaini Lecturer in Abrahamic Religions atAl-Azhar College, Al-Azhar Al-Sharif

Sheikh Professor Mohamed Elsharkawy Chairman of Scriptural Reasoning Imams Council

Dr Edie Friedman

Executive director of the Jewish Council for Racial Equality

Imam Shahid Hussain

Head of the interfaith department, Regent’s Park Mosque, London

Rabbi Reuben Livingstone

Chair of Children of Abraham, Jewish chaplain to HM Armed Forces

Imam Dr Abduljalil Sajid

Chairman of the Muslim Council for Religious and Racial Harmony UK

Rabbi Jackie Tabick

Chair of the World Congress of Faiths

Rabbi Elizabeth Tikvah Sarah

Rabbi of Brighton and Hove Progressive Synagogue

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URGENT NEWS – 10th January 2012

UK Borders Agency (UKBA) SNATCH LYDIA AND BERNARD FOR 4TH TIME

Press release: Playwright Lydia and husband Bernard snatched for the 4th time10/01/2012

At 09.30 this morning, the writer and playwright Lydia Besong reported to the UKBA at Dallas Courtin Salford, in line with previously agreed arrangements.  She was taken aside to a separate room and handed a letter dated 23rd December 2011 which stated that their claim for asylum had been refused. All her personal items were removed from her and she was not permitted a phone call to inform her solicitor that she had been detained. She was then immediately detained by the UKBA and within a matter of hours was transferred to Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC), nearBedford.

Five minutes later and 12 miles away in Bury, a group of 10 or 11 Immigration Officers grabbed her husband Bernard off the street just after he had left the family home inKestrel Drive. Bernard was taken to a police station; he does not know where as he was taken in the back of a vehicle with blacked out windows. At the police station Bernard was signed in at the reception desk (where police suspects are signed in) and he was then taken to an interview room where he was strip-searched by UKBA officers. A police officer was also present in the room as an observer. Bernard repeatedly asked why they were doing this to him. He asked if he was under arrest and if so what for, but no one replied to him. He kept on asking “Why are you doing this to me, I’m not a criminal.”  Eventually one of the UKBA officers (a female) responded to him, saying “You are not a British Citizen, you should go back to your own country.” Bernard’s belt and shoe laces were removed from him, as too were personal items such as wallet and loose change. He was not permitted to make any phone calls. He was not even permitted to inform his solicitor that he had been taken into detention. He was then transferred to a vehicle and about two hours later arrived at Morton Hall IRC, nearLincoln.

Lydia and Bernard are being held separately despite the availability of IRC accommodation for couples at Yarl’s Wood. No explanation has been given to them as to why they are in separate centres.

It was not until Bernard arrived at Morton Hall that he too was handed the same asylum refusal letter from the Home Office, dated23rd December 2011, thatLydia had been given at Dallas Court.

Before this morning, neither Bernard, Lydia nor their legal representatives, Latitude Law of Manchester, had been told that Bernard’s asylum protection claim, made on 19th October 2011, had been refused nor that they have also been refused the right to appeal this decision from within the UK.  They have been told that they can appeal the decision when they are back inCameroon. However,Cameroonis a country with which theUKdoes not have an agreement for such appeals to be made.

Today they were also separately handed removal directions which verify that the Home Office intends to forcibly remove them from the UK on an Air France flight to Cameroon due to depart at 08.20 on 21st January 2012.

Their lawyer, Gary McIndoe, said today: “We have been waiting for a decision on Bernard’s protection claim since 19th October last year. Further materials were sent to the Home Office, including the report of an expert witness, which does not seem to have been taken into account in reaching this decision.”

Speaking from Yarl’s Wood this afternoon,Lydia said: “The way they are treating us is so mean and so wrong. We comply with all their procedures and then they ignore those very same procedures again and again. I do not know where Bernard has been taken and, also, I am also very worried about my right eye. Recently I had to have an emergency eye operation and there are four different prescribed medicines that I must use.  I asked the UKBA officers atDallas Court to make sure I had my right medicines but I still don’t have what I need.”

Lydia and Bernard Must Stay campaign team member from Bury, Angela Gracey, explained further: “Lydia has glaucoma.  She was diagnosed with this condition in 2010 and has been under hospital medical supervision ever since.  Her eye pressure is very unstable and in December 2011 she had operations on both eyes to try and lower the extremely high pressure in both her eyes. One operation failed and she in critical need of a second more complex operation which is to take place in Manchester in January 2012.  She is on four items of medication and has been informed that she must continue to take her medication four times a day at regular intervals otherwise the eye pressure will rise, which will lead to permanent damage to her vision and eventual blindness.” [the full medication was finally provided more than 12 hours later]

In a phone call late this afternoon Bernard explained that, from what he can see in the refusal letter “The UKBA case owner has not told the truth. When I was granted this right to make a protection claim the judges gave the Home Office three months to respond.  I think they have come up with this because they knew the three months were nearly up and they were running out of time.”

 ore details of the campaign can be found at: http://www.rapar.org.uk/lydia-and-bernard-must-stay.html and at https://lydiaandbernard.wordpress.com/

For further information contact:
Dr Rhetta Moran, RAPAR, on 07776264646

Demand Lydia and Bernard’s immediate release by writing to your MP or Theresa May, Home Secretary or Damien Green, Minister for Immigration at The House of Commons, Westminster, London SW1A 0AA
Quoting case reference HOB1236372/3, stressing Lydia and Bernard’s urgent need for asylum and expressing your support for their right to remain in the UK —

  • Email the Home Secretary Theresa May at mayt@parliament.uk and Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk
  • Phone and/or fax Yarl’s Wood on Tel:  01234 821 000 Fax (Yarl’s Wood centre):  01234 821 096; Fax (UKBA):  01234 271 349
  • Phone and/or fax Morton Hall IRC on Telephone: 01522 666700 Fax: 01522 666750

Please cc your correspondence to RAPAR via admin@rapar.org.uk


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About Lydia Besong and Bernard Batey

Posted on January 18, 2012 by 

NOVEMBER 2011

Lydia, an English  teacher in Cameroon and Bernard (who ran his own building supplies business) sought asylum in the UK on 18/12/06.  

Their asylum claim is based on their being persecuted by the Cameroon Government for their political activities with the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC); a peaceful political organisation which campaigns for equal rights for the English-speaking minority of Southern Cameroon within the predominately French speaking country of Cameroon.  http://www.scncforsoutherncameroons.net/

Before their arrival in the UK, Lydia was wanted by the Gendarme because of her connections with and work for the SCNC.  Bernard were arrested at home when Gendarme officers went to arrest Lydia and did not find her there.  They detained Bernard for a week, imprisoned him and beat him so badly that he had to be taken to hospital for treatment.  Whilst in the hospital he managed to escape from his guards.  With the financial help of associates they both fled Cameroon and arrived in the UK on 18 Dec 2006, where they legitimately made a claim with the UKBA for asylum.

Lydia had been arrested and imprisoned on several occasions prior to the last attempt to detain her.  She has suffered beatings, tortured and rape by uniformed guards.  She has physical scars that testify to the torture she was subjected to.  There was and is no recourse of appeal or justice for them in Cameroon in 2006 and there will be none if they are ever returned there.  

In December 2009 their claim for asylum was turned down by UKBA and Lydia was detained in Yarl’s Wood detention centre with the intention of deporting her.  She came within 72 hours of deportation.  Bernard was also to be deported but the UKBA officers failed to pick him up.  A campaign to gain Lydia’s release saw an overwhelming response from individuals  and communities across Greater Manchester and beyond.  A High Court judge granted an injunction to prevent the couple’s deportation from the UK until  new evidence had been presented and considered.

In July 2011, Lydia was part of a delegation of women asylum seekers WomenAsylum Seekers Together (WAST) which went to Liverpool to hand in a list of ‘recommendations’ to the UKBA offices there.  The booklet details the failings of the current asylum system in its dealing with women and children asylum seekers.  The booklet makes positive and easily implementable suggestions for change in the current system.  

To date, there has been no response to this booklet by either the UKBA, the Secretary for Immigration or the Home Office.  

A copy of the booklet is posted on the WAST website.http://www.wast.org.uk/

On 5th September 2011 the UKBA again attempted to deport the couple. Bernard was detained by UKBA officers and sent to Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, near Heathrow with the intent of putting him on a flight on Saturday 10th September.  Again, his laywers sought legal intervention and a Court injunction was issued on Friday 9th September to prevent his removal from the UK.  He was eventually released from detention on 29th September and has since made a fresh claim for asylum; the outcome of which is still pending.

Since Bernard’s release from detention on 29th September he has had to sign twice a week at Dallas Court; each Tuesday and Friday.  This is a very unusual situation and Bernard and his legal team have asked why he has to sign twice a week but the UKBA refuse to give an answer.  It takes two hours to get to Dallas Court via bus from Bury and two hours to get back again, a round trip of 4 hours travelling, twice a week.  

Bernard had his new claim interview at Liverpool UKBA offices in October 2011.  Since then his solicitor has been hard working on preparing his full case with expert witness reports and affidavits from affiliates in Cameroon.   Bernard’s claim has now been filed with the UKBA.

The chairman of the SCNC in Cameroon has affirmed that Lydia and Bernard were active human rights practitioners in Cameroon.  Their continued human rights work whilst they have been in the UK stands as a testimony to the fact that they are genuine human rights campaigners, both in Cameroon and now in the UK.   Bernard and Lydia have worked tirelessly at RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seekers Participatory Action Research) and WAST (Women Asylum-Seekers Together) with refugees in similar situations to their own.

Lydia’s play How I Became An Asylum Seeker has been performed in Manchester, Salford, Liverpool and London, and is available on DVD.  An article about the play has appeared in The Guardian and Lydia’s campaign has been supported by the Bishop of Manchester and actor Juliet Stevensen.

Her next play ‘ Down with the Dictator’ is currently in production in Manchester and will be performed at the end of March in Bristol and at venues around Greater Manchester.

Their continuing human rights work in the UK stands as a testimony to their being experienced and committed human rights campaigners.  Bernard and Lydia have worked tirelessly at RAPAR (Refugee and Asylum Seekers Participatory Action Research) and WAST (Women Asylum-Seekers Together) with refugees in similar situations to their own.

Bernard is a much loved and valued member of Bury Acapeelers Community Choir (www.acapeelers.co.uk).  He has the deepest bass voice many have ever heard!  He loves singing, he loves the choir and he is sorely missed by his fellow bass singers and other choir members.  Choir members have written to their various MPs, the Home Secretary and Immigration Secretary demanding that the decision to remove him from the UK be overturned once and for all.

In 2010 Lydia was diagnosed with glaucoma.  She is 40years old and her medical condition is unstable and very advanced.  She requires on-going treatment and further operations in order to prevent her losing her sight.  She is being treated at Manchester Royal Eye Hospital and needs to maintain her regular medical check-ups and her daily medication regime.  If she is deported she will not have any access to medical treatment and she will lose her eyesight.

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Lydia invited to House of Lords

Lydia was invited to attend the House of Lords on Tuesday, October 11th, by Baroness Joan Bakewell who asked a question about women asylum seekers. Baroness Helena Kennedy and Baroness Oona King also contributed to the debate. Government whip Earl Attlee has agreed to meet with all members of the House of Lords who are concerned about the issue.

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