Catholic priest will risk jail to protect asylum seeker
A Catholic priest who says he is prepared to go to prison to stop an asylum seeker being returned to Rwanda, has managed to get the case reviewed after he prevented her detention by police.
Father McKay would not allow police and immigration officials to enter the church when they came to detain Josette Ishimwe last week.
Miss Ishimwe, 23, saw her parents hacked to death in Rwanda and is seeking refuge in his church to avoid being sent back to the country.
Miss Ishimwe came to England after escaping the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and settled in Bristol.
In an attempt to avoid deportation, she has been taken in by Father Richard McKay, priest of St Nicholas of Tolentino Church in Easton.
The Catholic priest says he is prepared to go to prison to stop Miss Ishimwe being returned to Rwanda.
Her final appeal for asylum was turned down, but news came at the weekend that she has now won the right to have her case reviewed.
Father McKay said: ìI have been informed by my solicitor that Josetteís case will now come up for judicial review.
ìObviously sheís relieved about this as the threat of deportation has been temporarily taken away and at last there seems to be some progress."
A spokesman for Avon and Somerset Police said two officers had gone to the church last week in support of immigration officers, but that a decision had been taken not to arrest her at that time.
Father McKay would not allow police and immigration officials to enter the church when they came to to detain her on Thursday.
He said at the time: ìI realise that by stopping them entering I am breaking the law but I also have a duty to protect parishioners.î
Although the immediate threat of deportation has been lifted, Ms Ishimwe will stay at St Nicholas of Tolentino Church in Easton to avoid being taken into custody.
Father McKay said; ìWe are all extremely concerned at the church at what Josetteís fate would be if she was sent back to Rwanda.î
A Home Office spokesman said: "We are not able to discuss individual cases but if she has failed her appeal she will be expected to leave the country."
Miss Ishimwe, who was just 13 when she saw he mother, father and other family members murdered, is said to be severely distressed at the prospect of deportation.
She is being cared for by fellow parishioners at the vicarage attached to the church in the Easton area of the city.