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Failed Congolese Asylum-Seekers Face Forced Removal From Britain

Thousands of failed Congolese asylum-seekers face deportation following a ruling by British authorities that they do not risk persecution if sent home. From London, Tendai Maphosa has more in this report for VOA.

Britain's Asylum and Immigration Tribunal dismissed an appeal by a Congolese asylum-seeker, whose name was not given, on the grounds of insubstantial evidence that she faces persecution if returned home.

The ruling clears the way for the government to deport other Congolese asylum seekers. Immigration experts estimate the ruling will affect about 10,000 failed asylum seekers originally from the Democratic Republic of Congo.

A ruling earlier this year halted the forced removal of Congolese asylum seekers pending the outcome of the case.

Congolese asylum seekers in Britain say they face rape, torture and in some cases death if they are returned to Kinshasa. Rights groups have also expressed concern.

"I am very disturbed by the ruling, which is just the latest in those which put the lives of asylum seekers at risk," said Sarah Hughes, the director of the International Rescue Committee, a humanitarian relief organization working in war-torn Congo. "As regards the Congolese, those who are deported will face a very uncertain future on their return to DRC. There is still active conflict in the east of the country, which is a challenge to rule of law and democracy, and all parts of the country show high excess mortality rates as a result of severe breakdown of services and the aftermath of conflict."

The Refugee Council, a group that provides advice to refugees and asylum seekers, also criticized the ruling. In a statement, its director Donna Covey blamed what she described as "a culture of disbelief within the system" for the ruling. She said for failed asylum seekers, being forced to return to Congo could be a matter of life and death.

Britain's Home Office, in a statement, welcomed the ruling, saying the Border and Immigration Agency will continue to monitor the human rights situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It said asylum will be granted for those who need it, adding that not every DRC citizen is in need of protection.