A “terrified” Lancaster man faces deportation due to a “Home Office decision-making lottery.”
Asylum-seeker Solomon Yitbarek is awaiting his fate and his supporters have drawn on the help of Lancaster MP Cat Smith and the Home Secretary in a bid to free him.
Gisela Renolds, the manager of the Global Link charity where Solomon had been volunteering, said he faces imminent deportation to Ethiopia, where he could be imprisoned for his peaceful democracy activities.
Since late 2015, security forces in Ethiopia have killed more than 1,000 people and detained tens of thousands during widespread protests against government policies.
Gisela said: “The authorities regularly use arbitrary arrests and politically motivated prosecutions to silence journalists, activists, and perceived opposition party members, including people like Solomon.
“Solomon is an activist in a pro-democracy opposition group called Patriotic Ginbot 7, who have been labelled a terrorist group by the Ethiopian government.
“He fears immediate arrest and imprisonment if he is returned to Ethiopia. He is terrified.”
Solomon had been living in Lancaster since 2016, having arrived in the UK legally on a spouse visa in 2013.
However, his subsequent separation from his partner prompted him to consider returning to Ethiopia in 2016.
He was warned against doing so by his aunt in Ethiopia, who informed him that an arrest warrant had been issued for him, and that his brother had been arrested and imprisoned for his political opposition activities.
Gisela said: “It was at this point that he applied for asylum. However, the Home Office have dismissed his case, implying that he is merely an ‘illegal immigrant’ and are refusing to consider further evidence that he has provided to support his asylum claim.
“Solomon’s family has a history of political activism. His father was tortured so badly by the Ethiopian regime 18 years ago that he died almost immediately on release.
“His mother then fled to Sudan as a refugee, with her young son Solomon.
“Solomon’s brother, who had remained in Ethiopia, was also arrested in 2016, was sent to prison for his opposition activities, and hasn’t been seen or heard of since.”
Solomon was moved to Lancaster by the Home Office following the breakdown of his marriage.
Gisela said in March the Home Office made attempted to deport him, but his lawyer put in a new claim for asylum.
This was rejected but his lawyer claims the Home Office failed to take new evidence into account.
Bail and a judicial review have now been applied for.
In the meantime, Solomon is being held in a detention centre at Gatwick, having been arrested in Lancaster last Wednesday.
Gisela said Lancaster MP Cat Smith has met with Solomon to offer support.
“Solomon is the victim of Theresa May’s ‘hostile environment’ policy, where Home Office case workers are not given enough time to consider cases properly,” Gisela said.
“Solomon has many friends, and a long term partner, who are all very concerned about his current and future welfare, and we have written to [Home Secretary] Sajid Javid to ask him to ensure that Solomon’s case is given the full review it requires.”