A cheerful and well dressed Charles Atangana, attended Glasgow Branch of the National Union of Journalists (NUJ) on Thursday 2 September, to tell about his incarceration at the hands of the UK Borders Agency (UKBA)
‘The support of everyone in the Union has been a great strength to me,’ he told the meeting. In a quiet and drole way he described how he whiled away time and kept boredom at bay by imagining what the civil servants trying to process his case were having to do.
An economic and current affairs journalist, Charles fled from his homeland of Cameroon more than six years ago after being detained and tortured. He has been an asylum seeker since, based in Glasgow. He was refused leave to stay after six years of waiting and detained in June this year. Since then he has been kept captive in three different deportation centres and twice been within three hours of being forcibly repatriated.
A major campaign by the NUJ at branch and national levels has provided solace, support and legal assistance and he was allowed out on bail. Said Charles: ‘There is something seriously wrong with the treatment of asylum seekers in the UK. Many of the people I met in the Colnbrook (next to Heathrow airport) and Dover removal centres have no lawyer or external supporters. The UKBA can pretty much do what it likes with people in that situation. We must make sure that changes.’
Charles believes that the NUJ high profile campaign has made it impossible for the UKBA to try to deport him through the anonymous, silent, unreported bureaucracy which shrouds hundreds of other asylum seekers. ‘This campaign has already done more than any others like it, I think, to help expose what goes on inside the UKBA,’ he said.
Recent reports have highlighted widespread human rights abuse by the authorities in Cameroon. The UN last month demanded urgent action to halt extrajudicial killings, end torture in detention and lift draconian restrictions on the media.
NUJ General Secretary, Jeremy Dear said:’Though this is just one step in the campaign to prevent Charles’ deportation back into the hands of the regime that has already imprisoned and tortured him for his brave reporting of corruption at the heart of the Cameroonian regime. The campaign to stop his detention will now intensify – but with Charles himself at the forefront of the campaign.’
NUJ President, Pete Murray who attended the meeting in Glasgow said: ‘Winning bail for Charles gives us a six-week window in which to bring the full might of the labour movement to bear to finally remove the threat of deportation now hanging over him.’ During the bail timen special permission was granted for Charles to travel to Glasgow and stay for two days.
Jock Morris of the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and Asylum Seekers congratulated the NUJ and said: ‘You are pioneers, unique in the trade union movement by including and supporting asylum seeking journalists here. The NUJ’s work in this respect would, if followed by other unions, provide the energy and strength to change the UK Government’s way of handling these cases.’
For more details of Charles’ situation and what you can do to help, see the NUJ website under ‘Campaigns.’