A torture survivor from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is celebrating after a Home Office U-turn allowed him to stay in the UK.
Otis Bolamu, 39, who lives in Swansea, was detained just before Christmas in 2018. The Home Office had planned to deport him to DRC on Christmas Day that year.
“I’m so very, very happy today,” Bolamu told the Guardian. “Now I can sleep again.
“When the Home Office locked me up in detention they kept asking me to sign something agreeing to go back to Congo. I kept saying to them: ‘No I cannot go back, I will be killed.’ Now at last I’m safe.”
A national campaign was launched in support of Bolamu and 60,000 people signed a petition asking the Home Office to let him stay in the UK.
He is a regular volunteer at the Oxfam shop in Swansea and has also helped out at the Hay festival. He is currently studying English and hopes to get a job using science qualifications he gained in DRC.
Phil Broadhurst, shop manager at Oxfam where Bolamu volunteers, said: “We are delighted, and proud of the way everyone gathered around in solidarity to support and protect Otis in whatever way they could.”
Bolamu said: “I just want to say thank you for the power of people. Everyone has been so kind, campaigning for me to come out of detention. And when I came back, they did not stop. Still they helped me and supported me.
“They said ‘We will not rest. We will not celebrate until he has refugee status.’ Now I have it. Now we can party! I have tried my best to integrate into the local community, it is something very important for asylum seekers and refugees to do.”
A celebration for Bolamu will be held at the Oxfam Shop in Castle Street, Swansea on 16 January, from 1pm.
Many members of the community, alongside Welsh assembly members and MPs, protested about his detention and called for his release.
Bolamu had previously worked for the Congolese electoral commission. He said he gave information aboutan alleged fraud to opposition politicians but was then suspected of spying for the opposition, which placed him in “severe danger”.
He said he was imprisoned and tortured for nine days in the DRC, but escaped after his father’s friend bribed a military official. Bolamu was smuggled out of the country and arrived in the UK in October 2017 claiming asylum immediately.
His lawyer Jamie Bell, of Duncan Lewis Solicitors, said: “This is a wonderful victory for Otis, whose right to asylum should not have been questioned and a victory for the power of community engagement. We are indebted to the powerful advocacy of so many individuals and groups who took Otis to their hearts and fought for him.”