The campaign in support of Dianne Ngoza, the Manchester anti-destitution activist, is hotting up with a three hour solidarity festival today, Saturday 19th November, in Piccadilly Gardens, Manchester between 2:30pm and 5:30pm.
Dianne, a Zambian nurse who has lived in the UK for 14 years and away from Zambia for twenty years, has been destitute for six years due to a series of errors by immigration solicitors. She made a new application for leave to remain in the UK four months ago but, at the beginning of November, this was rejected by the Home Office.
She was told she would be deported and that, although she had the right to appeal against the Home Office's decision to refuse her application, she would have to appeal from Zambia. On Wednesday, Dianne went to the Reporting Centre at Dallas Court in Salford with fresh evidence of her right to stay, and was backed by around fifty supporters who held a protest rally outside (see previous Salford Star article click here).
Dianne was detained, and when the van taking her to a centre tried to leave, supporters blocked it and forced it back into the compound. Later in the evening, following discussions with police, the van was allowed to leave, with both Dianne and her campaigners being told she was being taken to Pennine House near Manchester Airport. She never arrived (see previous Salford Star article click here)
Late that night, supporters learned that Dianne had been taken instead to the notorious Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire. The Dianne Must Stay! campaign has now issued a statement...
"As media coverage has shown and pending court cases against Yarl's Wood officers demonstrate, Yarl's Wood is no place for Dianne or any other woman to be" it states "When Dianne's supporters stopped the van from taking her to a detention centre on Wednesday, the duty deputy manager at Dallas Court said it was `not fair' to keep her there because she only had a chair to sit on and had not eaten for nearly seven hours since her arrival at the reporting centre that morning.
"He said Dianne needed a bed and a meal" it adds "This might have been possible if she had been taken the short distance to Pennine House at Manchester Airport. Instead she was forced to make a three hour journey to Yarl's Wood where she had to sit on another chair in a waiting room until well after midnight when she was given a bed. The only food she received consisted of two apples."
The campaign is now asking the Home Office:
Why they have not released Dianne from detention in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, Bedfordshire? Dianne submitted fresh evidence in her case to the Home Office before she was detained and they are legally obliged to consider that.
Why she is not being allowed to appeal against the Home Office decision from within the UK? New legislation will make in country appeals much more difficult from December 1st but that legislation is not currently in force.
Why her supporters at Dallas Court on Wednesday were told Dianne would be taken to Pennine House, the short term detention centre at Manchester Airport? She was taken to Yarl's Wood in Bedfordshire instead.
It is also asking people to write to their MP and has composed a draft letter*
In the meantime, supporters are holding today's solidarity party in Piccadilly Gardens where there will be free soup and herbal tea - grown locally and organically by the refugees and asylum seekers who use The Gaskell Garden Project plus rappers, musicians, poets and DJ Joaquín.
"This is a chance for people to find out how they can get involved in the campaign", state supporters.
* People can write to their MP via the Write To Them website www.writetothem.com
Dear (MP's name)
Re: Dianne Ngoza.
Date of Birth 28.08.1969 Home Office ref no: 021042760
As your constituent, I am writing to you to ask you to offer your support to Lucy Powell (MP for Manchester Central) who is raising the case of Dianne Ngoza with the Home Office.
I think it is particularly important for you to offer your support in this case - and I urge you to contact the Home Office yourself - as Dianne is a prominent campaigner against destitution. Many people are destitute in Manchester, Greater Manchester and elsewhere in the country: the effects of destitution are devastating and are very often the result of the UK's immigration and housing policies and procedures.
Dianne is currently detained at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, Bedfordshire, and is under threat of deportation even though fresh evidence in her case has been submitted to the Home Office. She was detained when she went to report at Dallas Court, Salford, on Wednesday 16th November. When her first application was rejected by the Home Office at the beginning of this month, Dianne was told she was being denied the right to an in country appeal.
A Zambian national and qualified nurse, Dianne is a very valued member of Manchester society. She has widespread support from refugee charities, church and community organisations, and trade unions. She is a member of Unite NW 389 Branch.
Dianne worked in South Africa for a number of years before coming to the UK on a work permit in 2002. She has not lived in Zambia for over 20 years and has no relatives or contacts there. Dianne's private life consists of her daughter who lives in the UK and her wide network of friends throughout Greater Manchester, Lancashire and other parts of the country.
Dianne became destitute six years ago due to a series of errors on the part of immigration solicitors. Since then, she has relied on friends and contacts for food, money and shelter. Despite this, she has worked tirelessly for the most vulnerable members of Manchester and Greater Manchester society.
As a supporter of Dianne, I am particularly concerned to know:
Why she remains in Yarl's Wood when fresh evidence was submitted for her case at 7am on Wednesday morning?
Why she was denied the right to an in country appeal against the Home Office decision at the beginning of November? I am aware new legislation is coming into force at the beginning of December but it has not happened yet. The Home Office agrees she has the right to appeal but Dianne has no money or contacts in Zambia so, in effect, the Home Office is preventing that appeal
Why supporters who accompanied Dianne to Dallas Court were told she would be taken from there to Pennine House to be taken care of? Instead she had to undergo a long journey to Bedfordshire and there was no bed immediately available at Yarl's Wood. She had to wait and the only food she was given throughout the day consisted of two apples.
The change from Pennine House to Yarl's Wood also resulted in Dianne's Manchester-based solicitor not being able to represent her at a bail hearing in Bedfordshire. Currently, more than 20 women are on the list to see the Yarl's Wood solicitor before Dianne.
I look forward to hearing from you as soon as possible.