Asylum seeker fears for his future

AN asylum seeker today admitted he fears for his safety should he be deported back to his native Angola.

Josh Warwick

AN asylum seeker today admitted he fears for his safety should he be deported back to his native Angola.

Antonio Nunes fled his homeland in 1997 amid political unrest over the region of Cabinda's push for independence.

He has lived in Ipswich for most of the last decade, holding down a number of jobs while he fought for permission to remain in the UK.

However immigration officials arrived at the Felixstowe Road home he shared with girlfriend Samantha Wilson last week and took him to Colnbrook Immigration Removal Centre, where he remains.

The 31-year-old said he came to the UK in 1997 having been persecuted for his allegiance to the Comité dos Nacionais de Cabinda (CNC), a non-violent organisation seeking independence from Angola.

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Two years earlier, he claims to have been arrested, isolated and beaten for taking part in a celebration of Cabinda and its culture.

Mr Nunes' village was also bombed by Angolan soldiers in response to an attack by gorilla group FLEC - the Front for the Liberation of the Enclave of Cabinda.

He has repeatedly sought asylum on the grounds that returning to Angola would put him at risk.

A statement on Amnesty International's website reads: “Unarmed civilians are being extra-judicially executed and tortured in the context of a little known war in Cabinda.

“The authorities have consistently failed to prevent abuses and bring the perpetrators to justice.

“Amnesty International is appealing to the government to restore full protection for human rights.”

Speaking from Colnbrook, Mr Nunes said: “It would be very dangerous for me to return to Angola.

“You must never speak about or get involved in politics - if you do, as I have done, you never know what will happen.”

Mr Nunes, whose younger brother is seeking asylum in Holland, admits his application to remain in the UK has been adversely affected by two petty convictions.

However he has managed to integrate into the community, becoming a popular member of Ipswich chess club.

He said the circumstances surrounding his recent arrest and detention had left a sour taste in the mouth.

“I have mixed feelings - all the trouble I have been through recently makes me feel like going,” he said.

“But when I hear the stories of people being arrested when they arrive in Angola, it makes me feel very worried.

“People are being killed in indiscriminately.”

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said he was unable to comment on individual cases however he said: “We will seek to remove those who have no right to be here. Last year we removed someone every eight minutes.

“However we will not remove someone if they have an application outstanding or they are pursuing an avenue of appeal.”

Do you support Mr Nunes' case? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk

Country profile: Angola

One of Africa's major oil producers, Angola is also one of the world's poorest countries.

It is striving to tackle the physical, social and political legacy of the 27-year civil war that ravaged the country after independence.

After 16 years of fighting, which killed up to 300,000 people, a peace deal led to elections. But after one side rejected the outcome, the war resumed, in which hundreds of thousands more were killed.

Another peace accord was signed in 1994 and the UN sent in peacekeepers, but the fighting steadily worsened again and in 1999 the peacekeepers withdrew, leaving behind a country rich in natural resources but littered with landmines and the ruins of war.

Angola faces the daunting tasks of rebuilding its infrastructure, retrieving weapons from its heavily-armed civilian population and resettling tens of thousands of refugees who fled the fighting.

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