In the early hours of Monday 6 October, Jean Pierre Gueutchue was deported on a British Airways flight back to Cameroon. He had been detained in Campsfield Detention Prison, Oxfordshire, for some time and was originally set to be deported on July 21, 2008 on the infamous Kenyan Airways Flight 101 but this did not take place. While no other removal directions were give, Jean Pierre was not release and spent the last four months of his time in the UK incarcerated in Campsfield.

Jean Pierre fled Cameroon and arrived in the UK in 2003, where he made a claim for asylum. He had been living in Cardiff before being detained, where he had established strong links with his community and made many enduring friendships. He was a much loved figure in the asylum seeking and refugee community in Cardiff and was a prominent member of Refugee Voice Wales. He had worked as a volunteer at the local British Red Cross for a number of years. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him.

In Cameroon Jean Pierre was imprisoned and tortured for his political activity with the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), a secessionist movement that has been declared illegal in Cameroon. In prison he was subjected to torture including being kicked, whipped and a practice called ‘falaka‘, which is a where a victim’s legs are tied together and soles of the feet are beaten with the flat surface of a machete.

In a medico-legal report, an independent medical examiner concluded that the numerous scars on the lower parts of his legs are highly consistent with being repeatedly kicked and the ones on his arms consistent with being whipped by electric cables. The swelling and tenderness of Jean Pierre’s feet and the pain he experiences when walking are described as being highly consistent with ‘falaka’. Given the strength of this report it would have been thought that Jean Pierre would have definitely been granted asylum. However, the Home Office chose to disregarded this expert opinion, stating that:

“it is equally likely that any such treatment resulted from any number of other possible causes”

This is despite the fact that the report stated that it would be very rare to see so many scares and that it is unlikely that they would have been caused by other means.

As well as the physical and mental scares that had been caused by his torture, it is highly likely that he also contracted Hepatitis C during this time. Prior to his being detained Jean Pierre had been receiving medical treatment at Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales for this, who had said has stated that it is vital that Jean Pierre’s health is reviewed in relation to his Hepatitis C treatment. This review was due to take place on 16 October, just 10 days after he was deported!

Jean Pierre’s deportation was also carried out even though Cardiff MP, Julie Morgan had taken up his case. On 2 October she had made a request for an urgent meeting with the Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, and in all probability it was this request that triggered the decision to quickly carry out the deportation over the weekend.

At lunchtime, on Sunday 5 October Jean Pierre was given his removal directions by Campsfield’s manager.

Tracy Ellicott, a friend and activist from the Campaign to Close Campsfield, who visited Jean Pierre that day said:

“Even though the faxed document showed it had been sent by the Home Office at 14.09 the previous day, his removal directions had been sat on for almost 24 hours. According to the Home Office, they didn’t need to give Jean Pierre the required 72 hours notice for removal as his case was now at ‘level 6′. According to them, as this was the 12th removal attempt the previous requirements had been overruled by a senior immigration official. The Home Office also said his connections with No Borders South Wales had been noted and not helped his case”

Clearly we’re having an impact and the tactic of phoning, faxing and emailing airline companies involved in deportations, that we and other campaigns advocate, is seen as so effective that the Home Office had to go to the lengths of bypassing its own rules in order to make sure that the deportation was carried out.

Following their meeting Tracy stated that Jean Pierre was:

“escorted from the interview room by 6 Campsfield guards who filmed him all the way. It was unbelievable”

Jean Pierre was then removed from Campsfield in the middle of the night and taken to the airport by 3 guards, one driver and 2 police officers. The police remained with him until the plane was ready to leave. The same procedure happened in France with 2 police officers boarding the plane.

When he arrived back in Cameroon he was met by more police who handcuffed him and put him in a cell. Luckily, Jean Pierre had managed to contact a friend who was able to bring money so that he could bribe the chief of police to release him into the custody of another police officer so he could leave the cell. He was told that he would be contacted when he was needed again. The next day he was arrested and questioned again, and again, had to bride his way out. He was told in no uncertain terms that his case was not closed.

Jean Pierre’s life is clearly very unsafe and we will do all that we can to continue to offer him solidarity. The situation that he now faces is not unique however. It is one amongst many that highlights the brutality of immigration controls. Everyday hundreds of people are deported from the UK back to situations they have risked their lives to escape. With the European migration regime intensifying all the time, we need, now more than ever, to stand in solidarity with all those living precarious lives because of capitalism and the state and to fight for a world free from migration controls. For an end to the hierarchies and selective inclusion that the European regime of migration management creates and for a world of equality and freedom for all.

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