Great news -- disabled activist Peter Gichura released - deportation cancelled!
Faced with widespread concern and pressure from groups and individuals, the Home Office cancelled the deportation of Peter Gichura planned for Thursday 23 February. He was released from Harmondsworth Detention Centre on Friday 24 February. On his release, Peter said:
“I want to thank all my friends and supporters and particularly those who campaigned on my behalf -- Payday men’s network, Leonard Cheshire, my solicitor and numerous organisations and individuals -- without whom I would have been deported to persecution, worsening disability and most likely death.
“At the detention centre, despite being dependent on my wheelchair, I was detained in an inaccessible environment – I could barely open the door of my room and was locked out from using the toilet – they had no facilities to allow me to bathe. The healhcare was appalling, I never received the medication I asked for, for my bladder infection problems. I was actually given somebody else’s antibiotics which I knew was no good.
“Now I will continue fighting for my right to stay, and for a change to the asylum laws so that my sisters and brothers are not faced with the same racism and heartlessness that is part and parcel of immigration controls.”
He is currently detained at Harmondsworth Detention Centre. We are extremely concerned as he is very ill and as a wheelchair user has been placed in an inaccessible environment. He is currently fighting to have access to healthcare, the physical care he needs and his medication, which he has still not received since his detention at 11.30am on 20 February.
Mr Gichura became disabled in 1990 due to a fall from a tree while trying to escape from the police. His spine was severely injured and he broke both hands, and because he did not receive adequate medical attention he later lost the use of his legs.
He started to support himself as a street-hawker (street seller) in Nairobi. With other disabled people, he formed the Mwanzo Disabled Development Society (MDDS) in 2000, of which he was the chairman, giving advice and support to other disabled people.
Nairobi Council issued licences to hawk, but would revoke them without justification. for political gain and vast corruption. Street hawkers with all types of disability were victims of assault by the police. The MDDS campaigns against this violence and discrimination led to Mr Gichura’s life being in danger. On several occasions he was arrested, detained and beaten.
The MDDS tried to set up projects for people with disabilities on community land previously allocated to disabled people, but the local authorities refused to allocate it. As the MDDS became more critical of them, Mr Gichura became the target of death threats from a senior government official and immediately after this was detained for a week by the police. He was released with a warning to stop all campaigns. Threats and arrests continued from then on, and the persecution became unbearable.
Mr Gichura and all the leading members of the MDDS had to urgently leave Kenya. On arrival in London, in June 2001, he was sent from one office to another to which he had to travel on foot, using crutches. At the time he was interviewed by immigration officials, he was in pain, exhausted and traumatised and without proper legal representation -- which explains the minor discrepancies that the Home Office relied on to dismiss his claim and appeals.
Mr Gichura was refused National Asylum Support Service (NASS) housing and cash on the basis that they had no accessible accommodation, so ever since he has had to live without cash – first in a nursing home and then in inaccessible accommodation subsisting on £28 Tesco vouchers a week (abolished for people getting NASS support).
Mr Gichura’s health has worsened greatly since he arrived in the UK. He is now unable to use crutches at all. He developed bladder problems, which have worsened despite taking antibiotics since 2001. He has unbearable pain and burning sensations. He suffers from stomach ulcers. He has been unable to contact his wife and son who are in hiding against persecution.
Despite all the difficulties, Mr Gichura has made a home in London, and contributes to the community helping others, he is a valued member of our group Payday men’s network based at the Crossroads Women’s Centre, as well as regularly volunteering with Leonard Cheshire, and an active member of the Church group, Back to God Ministries.
Mr Gichura has now presented a new application for asylum based on the lack of access to the healthcare he needs to survive, and the fact that he would be discriminated against in Kenya, where many people believe disability to be a curse which can result in discrimination in access to healthcare and other services and sometimes violent attacks from prejudiced people.
A report by Disability Awareness in Action, a worldwide charity previously commissioned by UNESCO to study obstacles to integration faced by disabled people, concludes:
‘In developing countries ... people with spinal injuries died within two years of their injuries, not from lack of treatment, but because of their living conditions. To survive the effects of bowel and bladder dysfunction (inevitable results of spinal injury), a person with spinal injuries requires a fully accessible and aseptic home with modern hygienic toileting and bathing facilities. Without these available on a daily basis the disabled person is likely to contract uncontrollable infection of the kidneys, leading to death. … It is my honest and considered opinion that the return of Peter Gichura to Kenya will result in his death within a short space of time.” Rachel Hurst, Director.
What you can do
Minister of State, Home Office, Tony McNulty, firstname.lastname@example.org fax: 020 7219 2417
Payday: email@example.com fax: 0207 209 4761
22 February 2006
PO Box 287 London NW6 5QU
Tel 020 7209 4751 Fax 020 7209 4761 mobile 07957733106