Calls for enquiry into tragic death of African church asylum seeker

Calls for enquiry into tragic death of African church asylum seeker

By staff writers
21 Sep 2005

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Calls for enquiry into tragic death of African church asylum seeker

-21/09/05

The Anglican Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, a local vicar and John Battle MP are renewing calls for an inquiry into the detention and subsequent suicide of an African asylum seeker - who killed himself so that his son would not be deported.

On Monday night a vigil was held at the manís church in Leeds. Manuel Bravo, 35, hanged himself last Thursday after he and his 13-year-old son, Antonio, were arrested at their home in Armley and taken to Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedford. They were due to be sent back to Angola.

Mr Bravo's wife Lydia and their other son Mellyu returned to the country earlier this year. The International Red Cross later informed him that she had been arrested on their arrival and that both had disappeared.

It seems that Mr Bravo hanged himself so that the government could not deport Antonio, as it is illegal to send back an unaccompanied minor.

The authorities have now said that it is unlikely Antonio will be expelled before his 18th birthday, allowing him to complete his education at West Leeds High School. He can then apply for asylum.

Campaigners, including members of the church where Mr Bravo and his father attended, are determined that he will stay in Britain, and are demanding to know how such an avoidable tragedy could have been allowed to happen. They say it highlights the callous injustice of the asylum laws.

At the vigil, held at Christ Church on Moorfield Road, Upper Armley, members of the congregation, refugees and representatives of the local community expressed grief and devastation over Mr Bravoís death.

Prayers were said and candles were lit before a silent procession to the house on Paisley Street where the father and son had lived for three years.

Among those attending were the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, who has been an outspoken critic of the asylum and refugee system.

Also there was Leeds West Labour MP John Battle, a Catholic. Mr Battle, a former government minister, has been Prime Minister Tony Blairís so-called ëfaith tsarí, assisting relations with different religious communities. He is also a one-time director of Church Action on Poverty.

The Rev Alistair Kaye, Vicar Of Christ Church, said the three of them were together calling for a full inquiry into what they believe was an illegal arrest.

The priest returned to Leeds on Saturday night after securing Antonio's return from foster parents in Bedfordshire, with whom he had been placed.

Along with other members of the church, Mr Kaye had been campaigning for Mr Bravo and his son to stay in Britain after the Home Office failed to contact the family following an appeal last November.

Mr Kaye was present at Bravo's asylum tribunal hearing, at which the Angolan represented himself after his lawyer failed to turn up. "He was told he would get the result of his asylum application within a month, but none showed, despite me writing to the Immigration Service," the vicar explained.

Mr Kaye said that their sudden removal last Wednesday was illegal because Mr Bravo had not been given a chance to appeal against his deportation.

He told the Yorkshire Post newspaper: "There needs to be a full inquiry Ö Father and son were snatched from their home and hours before his death Manuel was desperate when I spoke to him by phone."

Manuel Bravo came to England from war-torn Angola three years ago, with his wife, Lydia, and two sons.

Bravo's death highlights the desperation many feel as the UK government pursues an increasingly stringent asylum policy under pressure from sensationalist tabloid media coverage.

In April this year, 400 people attended a protest in Leeds over the mistreatment treatment of asylum seekers in Britain. Organiser Dave Young said at the time that churches had serious concerns that the asylum issue was used as a "political football", re-iterating the earlier plea, reported on Ekklesia, made by churches across the UK.

The Anglican Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, a local vicar and John Battle MP are renewing calls for an inquiry into the detention and subsequent suicide of an African asylum seeker - who killed himself so that his son would not be deported.

On Monday night a vigil was held at the man's church in Leeds. Manuel Bravo, 35, hanged himself last Thursday after he and his 13-year-old son, Antonio, were arrested at their home in Armley and taken to Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedford. They were due to be sent back to Angola.

Mr Bravo's wife Lydia and their other son Mellyu returned to the country earlier this year. The International Red Cross later informed him that she had been arrested on their arrival and that both had disappeared.

It seems that Mr Bravo hanged himself so that the government could not deport Antonio, as it is illegal to send back an unaccompanied minor.

The authorities have now said that it is unlikely Antonio will be expelled before his 18th birthday, allowing him to complete his education at West Leeds High School. He can then apply for asylum.

Campaigners, including members of the church where Mr Bravo and his father attended, are determined that he will stay in Britain, and are demanding to know how such an avoidable tragedy could have been allowed to happen. They say it highlights the callous injustice of the asylum laws.

At the vigil, held at Christ Church on Moorfield Road, Upper Armley, members of the congregation, refugees and representatives of the local community expressed grief and devastation over Mr Bravo's death.

Prayers were said and candles were lit before a silent procession to the house on Paisley Street where the father and son had lived for three years.

Among those attending were the Bishop of Ripon and Leeds, the Rt Rev John Packer, who has been an outspoken critic of the asylum and refugee system.

Also there was Leeds West Labour MP John Battle, a Catholic. Mr Battle, a former government minister, has been Prime Minister Tony Blair's so-called ëfaith tsar', assisting relations with different religious communities. He is also a one-time director of Church Action on Poverty.

The Rev Alistair Kaye, Vicar Of Christ Church, said the three of them were together calling for a full inquiry into what they believe was an illegal arrest.

The priest returned to Leeds on Saturday night after securing Antonio's return from foster parents in Bedfordshire, with whom he had been placed.

Along with other members of the church, Mr Kaye had been campaigning for Mr Bravo and his son to stay in Britain after the Home Office failed to contact the family following an appeal last November.

Mr Kaye was present at Bravo's asylum tribunal hearing, at which the Angolan represented himself after his lawyer failed to turn up. "He was told he would get the result of his asylum application within a month, but none showed, despite me writing to the Immigration Service," the vicar explained.

Mr Kaye said that their sudden removal last Wednesday was illegal because Mr Bravo had not been given a chance to appeal against his deportation.

He told the Yorkshire Post newspaper: "There needs to be a full inquiry Ö Father and son were snatched from their home and hours before his death Manuel was desperate when I spoke to him by phone."

Manuel Bravo came to England from war-torn Angola three years ago, with his wife, Lydia, and two sons.

Bravo's death highlights the desperation many feel as the UK government pursues an increasingly stringent asylum policy under pressure from sensationalist tabloid media coverage.

In April this year, 400 people attended a protest in Leeds over the mistreatment treatment of asylum seekers in Britain. Organiser Dave Young said at the time that churches had serious concerns that the asylum issue was used as a "political football", re-iterating the earlier plea, reported on Ekklesia, made by churches across the UK.

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