Kath Grant and Rhetta MORAN describe how Dianne Ngoza was unlawfully detained and how the Home Office constantly and purposely neglects its own procedures
DALLAS Court Home Office Reporting Centre is on an industrial estate at Salford Quays, a short distance from the Lowry Theatre and the BBC at Media City. On November 16, Dianne Ngoza, a nurse and human rights activist, disappeared through its doors. Outside her supporters held a peaceful solidarity protest — but Dianne was detained and taken to Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire. She had submitted fresh evidence for her human rights application for leave to remain in the UK. Dallas Court staff said the Home Office caseworker knew about the fresh evidence. Yet, like many others, Dianne was unnecessarily detained. For detainees’ own stories see: detainedvoices.com. Dianne’s family were refugees from Congo who fled to Zambia. She came to Britain on a work permit in 2002. Due to mistakes by previous solicitors, her visa was not renewed. She was unable to work and became destitute. Destitution is an integral part of the immigration process. For some people, it is the result of bad advice from ineffective solicitors. Others become destitute when their cases are refused and asylum support is withdrawn. It can take months, even years, to gather fresh evidence for their cases from their home countries. They rely on friends or charities for food and shelter. Many end up sleeping on the streets. When she went to Dallas Court, Dianne had a new solicitor. But the reporting centre staff refused to fax him bail papers — saying it could be done at Pennine House detention centre near Manchester Airport. Instead of going there, Dianne was taken on a four-hour journey to Yarl’s Wood where her solicitor could not act for her and another solicitor had to be found. At Yarl’s Wood, there was a 12-day wait for bail applications. Dianne was given removal directions with a flight booked to Zambia on November 30. The removal was unlawful because fresh evidence had been submitted and the Home Office was obliged to consider it. But this didn’t stop it from booking a flight — and seemingly putting Dianne on a plane to Zambia without a passport. Rapar launched an anti-deportation campaign and letters went to MPs, the immigration minister and Kenya Airways asking them not to be party to a forced and unlawful removal. Dianne’s Manchester MP Lucy Powell took up her case. Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill told the MP removal instructions would be cancelled and the case reconsidered. In fact on the same day, the Home Office refused Dianne’s application for leave to remain in Britain. It could have led to Dianne’s immediate removal. But her solicitor Mervyn Cross lodged an application for a judicial review and it was only this legal move which prevented the Home Office from deporting Dianne.
During her time in Yarl’s Wood, Dianne did not have adequate nutrition and she was refused a medical examination. She was finally released from detention by an immigration judge. The Home Office denied Dianne the right to appeal in the UK but told her she could appeal from Zambia. Effectively, it would have denied her the right to appeal because she has no relatives, contacts or money there. New legislation now makes it much easier for the Home Office to refuse people the right to appeal from within the UK. The Home Office constantly disregards its own procedures and, in this case, they even misled Dianne’s elected representative. People seeking shelter and safety in this country are experiencing rough justice. Dianne’s campaign has spotlighted something of what is happening but other people are living in the shadows. As her solicitor Mervyn Cross rightly remarked on the day of her bail hearing: “There are many Diannes.”
Rapar is a human rights campaigning organisation based in Manchester. Kath Grant is the press officier for Rapar and Rhetta Moran is a Rapar matron.