BY No Author | October 8 2010 | comments icon 0 COMMENTS     print icon print

1-DOROTHY

Asylum prayers finally answered

Glasgow schoolgirl Dorothy Mwamba’s best 18th birthday present is right to continue to live in Scotland

A TEENAGE parishioner of St Peter’s Parish, Partick, has been saved from deportation to the war-torn Democratic Republic of Congo on the eve of her 18th birthday.

To the delight of her fellow parishioners, Congolese-born Dorothy Mwamba—whose plight has been previously highlighted in the Scottish Catholic Observer—has been granted ‘leave to remain’ in the UK after a lengthy dispute with the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal.

Parish joy

After announcing the news to the parishioners, Fr Jim Lawlor spoke of the parish’s joy.

“I am delighted, as are the whole parish, that Dorothy can stay,” Fr Lawlor said. “When we announced it at Mass and several parish gatherings there was a spontaneous burst of applause.

“I have been very impressed by the genuine concern for Dorothy in her parish and school.

“I am also aware of the indignation people felt about the injustice of her situation.

“I am sure that the clear support she received from her faith family was a help in the right decision being made.”

The Notre Dame High School pupil has been living in Glasgow supported by Barnardos since she was brought out of DR Congo three years ago by the religious sister who had been caring for her.  Since the death of her mother and the disappearance of her father and siblings, her status of ‘lone female’ rendered her likely to attack in the country regarded by the United Nations as the ‘rape capital of the world.’

After settling in to Notre Dame she was accepted for the RCIA programme last year and was warmly applauded this Easter when she was one of the candidates received into the Faith at the Easter Vigil in St Peter’s.

Deportation danger

Ms Mwamba’s peace of mind was short-lived however, as in June this year, a letter informing her that her application to stay had been denied filled her with terror. Immediately parishioners rallied to assist her application to stay with a letter of support that was sent to the Home Office.

At a hearing several weeks ago at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal, Ms Mwamba was accompanied by several of her supporters including Fr Lawlor and members of senior management from Notre Dame.

Now she has received the judgement that entitles her to stay until she is 25, and the confirmation of her status of ‘refugee’ means that she cannot be sent back to the DR Congo.

Community support

Ms Mwamba’s elation on receiving confirmation of her ‘leave to remain’ was shared by her teachers and classmates as she and her supporter and fellow parishioner Colette Ramsay went round her classes at Notre Dame with the news.

“Dorothy has become so much part of the school community and her friends were incredibly happy and relieved for her,” Mrs Ramsay said. “She had lots of support that she appreciated as it helped her tremendously but it was a very dark, isolated and frightening time.

“Her life was literally hanging in the balance. She is overjoyed and relieved now that she has her permission to remain.

“Now she can look to the future with confidence.”

Refugee status

Commenting on Ms Mwamba’s refugee status, Fr Lawlor said that it left him feeling conflicted.

“Dorothy has been awarded the ‘status’ of a refugee,” he said. “While this means she can now stay with us, imagine how it reflects on the 21st century in a modern democracy like ours that  refugee is deemed a ‘positive’ [outcome]. It actually means that she has fled in fear of her life, that she is an orphan and a young lone female, that she leaves her country torn apart still by violence and prejudice.

“But if ‘refugee’ is the badge that allows her to stay, then I will take it. To the system she may be a refugee but to us in the parish she is Dorothy Mwamba.”

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