Charity shop worker given refugee status after asylum battle

By Adam Hale, PA Wales Correspondent

A Congolese man who was almost deported from the UK after seeking political asylum has been granted refugee status following an outcry by supporters.

Otis Bolamu, 38, said he fled his home country for his own safety after being labelled a spy for an opposition political party.

He later settled in Swansea, where he works at an Oxfam shop.

In December 2018, he was taken from his bed by immigration officers in the early hours and told he would remain at a detention centre in Gatwick before being deported back to the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Following an outcry from friends, local MPs and a petition signed by more than 12,000 people, Mr Bolamu was allowed to return to Swansea for his case to be reconsidered.

Earlier this week, Mr Bolamu was granted refugee status by the Home Office and will continue working at the charity shop in Swansea.

He said in a Facebook post on Wednesday: “I just want to say thank you. I am so excited. I just want to stop and say thank you for the power of people.

“People were 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!”

Mr Bolamu’s solicitor, Jamie Bell, said the decision showed “the power of community advocacy”.

He told the PA news agency: “We are delighted that after a lengthy battle, Otis has finally been granted asylum and now has the right to safe refuge in the United Kingdom.

“We wish to particularly thank all of the individuals and groups who have supported Otis throughout his fight.

“This victory shows the power of community advocacy and the wonderful character of the community in Swansea.”

Mr Bolamu told friends he used to work for the DR Congo Government and fled to the UK in October 2017 after being warned he was suspected of spying for the Opposition.