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  1. ITV Report

Petition to stop Christmas day deportation of asylum seeker

An asylum seeker who fled the Democratic Republic of Congo to escape its government faces being deported from the UK on Christmas Day.

Otis Bolamu, 38, had been volunteering at an Oxfam shop in Swansea, South Wales, before he was taken in the early hours of Thursday morning and held at a detention centre.

The Congolese national is currently being detained at the Brook House Immigration Removal Centre at Gatwick and is due to be deported on Christmas Day.

Friends and colleagues have criticised the decision and its timing, saying his "valid claim" of fleeing government persecution in his home country is not being heard as Home Office staff and solicitors are unavailable for talks over Christmas.

Mr Bolamu told friends he used to work for the DRC government and fled to the UK in October last year after campaigning for democracy and being warned that he was suspected of spying for the government opposition.

After arriving in Swansea, he volunteered at this year's Hay Festival and three to four times a week at the Oxfam shop in Castle Street, but was refused leave to remain in August following an appeal.

After his detention, friends and colleagues held a protest in Castle Square, Swansea, on Friday, and a petition set up by Hay, Brecon & Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees on Saturday had received almost 6,000 signatures by Monday afternoon.

A Home Office spokesman said all claims are 'carefully considered on their individual merits':

The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection. All asylum claims lodged in the UK are carefully considered on their individual merits against a background of relevant case law and up-to-date country information.

– Home Office spokesman