NUJ member Charles Atangana has been granted refugee status seven years after he arrived in Britain from Cameroon.
Mr. Atangana fled Cameroon because he had been imprisoned and tortured but the Home Office sought to send him back. In response journalists led by the NUJ Glasgow branch mounted a determined campaign and in April Charles finally won his battle and has now received Home Office documents confirming his refugee status.
“With a profound humility, I would like to say ‘thank you’ to my union, the NUJ, to other sister unions, to Citizens Advice Scotland and community groups and parliamentarians that have worked in a coordinated campaign to secure my leave to remain in the UK,” said Mr. Atangana. “I came here to seek sanctuary and I had no other option but to fight against my removal back to Cameroon. I am delighted that so many acted on my behalf and for that I just want to say thank you, thank you and thank you.”
NUJ general secretary Michelle Stanistreet said: “While the campaign to defend Charles is something of which the NUJ is justifiably proud, this successful outcome is the work of many people including the solidarity of the wider trade union movement. We want to thank everyone who supported Charles. In particular, I commend the NUJ’s legal team and our solicitor Emma Cohen of Bindmans for their work on deportation cases taken up by the NUJ.
“The eventual success of the campaign is also due to Charles Atangana’s own courage and his unfailing belief in the power of trade union solidarity, which has helped to see him through seven stressful years.”
Solicitor Cohen of Bindmans explained that Charles “arrived in the UK and claimed asylum in 2004 after fleeing Cameroon where he had been targeted because he was a journalist who criticised the government. Bindmans became involved when Charles was at risk of removal in July 2010. Thankfully, after judicial review proceedings the Home Office agreed to give Charles a further right of appeal and in April 2011 an immigration judge allowed his appeal. The Home Office decided not to challenge the judge’s decision and Charles has now been granted refugee status. I am very pleased that he can at last get on with his life here without the fear of being returned to Cameroon. I also hope the case will draw attention to the plight of journalists still in Cameroon who speak out against the government.”
Chair of NUJ Glasgow Branch John Matthews said their branch was “Charles’ first defence against the threat of forced removal and deportation from a city he calls home.”
He thanked the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, other trade unions and, the wider NUJ family for supporting Charles’ campaign. “The NUJ is proud to welcome into membership asylum seekers and refugees, and we call on other trade unions to do the same. The Scottish TUC accepted an NUJ motion calling on affiliated unions to accept asylum-seekers into membership,” Mr. Matthews said. “For NUJ Glasgow Branch the struggle continues, as we now campaign for Gambian journalist Alieu Ceesay, whom the Home Office wishes to deport despite a public threat to him by the Gambian justice minister.”