College rallies to keep asylum seeker in UK

26th September 2008 at 01:00
Student whose parents were killed in Burundi fears same fate on return

Sheffield College has united in a last-ditch attempt to prevent a student asylum seeker being deported back to Burundi where she fears she will be killed.

Annociate Nimpagaritse, 25, was arrested at her home in north Sheffield and taken to a detention centre to await deportation after her asylum claim was rejected.

She fled her central African homeland in 2005 after her parents, who were Tutsi, were murdered by a gang she believes were part of a rebel group from the country's Hutu majority.

Her supporters at Sheffield College, who have drawn up a 1,200-name petition for her to be allowed to stay, say she is likely to be killed if she returns to Burundi.

Ms Nimpagaritse, diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder, settled in Sheffield and has studied English at the college for two years. She planned to train to be a nurse and was about to marry her fiance, a refugee who was given the right to remain in the UK. Her lecturer, Graham Wroe, said: "She was making a positive contribution to the local community, attending college, speaking at local churches and was involved in charity work.

"She fell in love and was looking forward to getting married. She finally thought she'd got a brighter future. Tragically, that happiness has been cut short. In Burundi, she really would be in fear of her life."

Among her supporters are Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrat leader and Sheffield Hallam MP, and Sheffield College principal Heather MacDonald, who has written to the Home Office to appeal on Ms Nimpagaritse's behalf.

"She has been a model student and contributed strongly to her local community here in Sheffield," said Ms MacDonald.

Burundi is emerging from a civil war and many of the 800,000 refugees who have fled since the 1970s are returning home. But human rights groups say civilian killings, arbitrary and illegal detention, torture and rapes are still widely reported. With about 3,000 under-17s arriving each year in the UK to claim asylum, and many adult refugees needing to retrain to adapt to British society, colleges often have students facing deportation if their claims are refused.

About 65 students at colleges have faced deportation threats over 10 years, according to cases monitored by the National Coalition of Anti- Deportation Campaigns.

The UK Border Agency said it did not comment on individual asylum cases. But a spokesman said: "In cases where we find that individuals have no fear of persecution or serious harm upon return to their home country, they are expected to leave the UK.

"Our asylum decisions are humane and compassionate and are also subject to independent scrutiny by the judiciary. Where unsuccessful asylum claimants refuse voluntarily to leave, we have made it clear that we will take a robust approach to enforcing their removal. Last year we removed one person every eight minutes."

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