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James Fallah-Williams... Own up, UKBA!
Update 26/08/11 - James Fallah-Williams, who stopped his hunger strike a week ago after the UK Border Agency agreed to re-assess his case, has been given discretionary leave to remain in the UK for three years. His hard-fought campaign has been successful. See press release here.
Throughout his campaign, James has had the backing of Leigh MP Andy Burnham, the National Union of Journalists, RAPAR, and the considerable support of his local community in Leigh and throughout Greater Manchester. He has also received extensive media coverage in the local Manchester press. All of this support played a huge part in forming a strong and successful campaign and James is thankful to all of his supporters.
James, a journalist and human rights activist, arrived in the UK in 1998 after fleeing Sierra Leone at the height of its civil war. He studied, worked and volunteered in the UK for ten years with full legal rights. Following a number of threats resulting from his journalism exposing corruption in the Sierra Leonean government, it became dangerous for James to return to Sierra Leone when he finished his studies, so he applied for asylum in 2008. Initially, his application was refused and James appealed the decision. In August 2011, James endured a nineteen day hunger strike to protest against the against the UKBA's behaviour during his appeal process. Their actions included persistently misleading a sitting MP and repeatedly failing to respond to correspondence from his legal representatives (there is a detailed chronology of the UKBA's behaviour below). He came off his hunger strike after nineteen days because the UKBA finally agreed to accept submissions from his lawyer and engage in dialogue with his MP Andy Burnham. The UKBA granted James discretionary leave to remain on August 25th after reviewing the further submissions that were accepted during James' hunger strike.
Links to statements:
James' statement of intent for his hunger strike here.
James' statement announcing the end of his hunger strike here.
NUJ's statement about James ending his hunger strike here.
Article on NUJ website
Article on NUJ website
Article in Bolton News
Article in Leigh Journal
Radio interview on BBC Radio Manchester (from 2 hours 35 mins, available until 28th August)
Radio interview with RAPAR matron Rhetta Moran on BBC Radio Manchester talking about why James ended his hunger strike (from 1 hour 44 mins, available until 26th August)
Article in Manchester Mule
Article in Salford Star
Article on NUJ website
Article in Sierra Express Media
Article in Awoko Newspaper
Article in How-Do
Short film about James ending his hunger strike Short film about James' reasons for hunger striking
Brief summary of James’ case since the start of his appeal in 2008
- In 2009 James was granted permission to work (a right asylum seekers are usually denied) following a period of voluntary work during which he established a successful community project.
- James began working for Manchester Refugee Support Network, and in 2010 one of his clients won a landmark case against the UKBA.
- 8 days after this, James’ permission to work was withdrawn by the UKBA despite reassurances made by the UKBA to James' MP Andy Burnham that his work permit would not be revoked.
- 19 days after that, the UKBA refused his asylum application, claiming that James had been living in the UK illegally for 12 days. He had actually been living in the UK legally for 12 years.
- When Andy Burnham asked the UKBA about this decision they lied to him about James’ immigration history, claiming that James was out of the UK between 1998 and 2001, when in fact he was completing a degree at Portsmouth University. The UKBA later apologised for this.
- However, they have ignored further questions put to them by Andy Burnham in relation to this matter.
- The UKBA also continues to ignore important correspondence from James’ legal representatives containing evidence in support of his asylum application.
- Further to this, the UKBA have repeatedly failed to produce relevant documents at the requests of James, Andy Burnham and James’ legal representatives.
- On August 1st 2011 James went on hunger strike to protest against the UKBA's behaviour as documented above.
- The UKBA arranged with his lawyer that they would accept further submissions at Dallas Court on August 10th.
- These submissions were refused at Dallas Court and James' representatives were told that James' case was 'finished' and that he didn't have a caseworker. Both these statements were not true. It was suggested that James should send the documents to Liverpool. They had already been sent there several times and ignored.
- Despite proof of delivery and a signature of receipt, the UKBA denied ever receiving the further submissions in Liverpool on August 16th.
- James' supporters organised a lobby in Liverpool to call for James' further submissions to be acknowledged and considered by the UKBA.
- It was announced on the morning of August 19th that James was ending his hunger strike because he had received news that the UKBA had accepted receipt of the further submissions and were reviewing his case.
- On August 25th James was accorded three years discretionary leave to remain. He will be able to work and enjoy normal access to other rights. Shortly, when he has spent a total of 14 years in the UK, he can apply for permanent leave to remain.