Debut Playwright Lydia Besong and Human Rights Campaigner Bernard Batey told to leave UK & return to Cameroon
Lydia Besong is a writer. Her debut play “How I Became an Asylum Seeker” is being staged by Community Arts Northwest (CAN) at the Zion Theater in Hulme, Manchester on 3rd December. She is also on the Management Committee of WAST (Woman Asylum Seekers Together).
Bernard Batey, her husband, has been leading for the national award-winning Human Rights organisation RAPAR in a partnership with Revive, Changemakers, Boaz Trust and Citizens for Sanctuary. Together, they have opened Manchester’s first voucher exchange network.
On Thursday night, 29th October 2009, this married couple got back to their home in Rochdale after a busy day to find a letter from the Border and Immigration Agency telling them that they must go back to Cameroon, the country they fled from late at night on December 17th 2006.
Both Lydia and Bernard were tortured in Cameroon and, as well as being tortured in gaol, Lydia was raped by one of the guards. This happened because Lydia and Bernard were members of SCNC [Southern Cameroon National Council]. SCNC is an organization that is fighting for the freedom and liberation of southern Cameroon [English Speaking Cameroon].
Lydia and Bernard’s MP, Paul Rowen, says: “I believe Bernard and Lydia have a genuine case for political asylum and I don’t say that about every case I see.”
Reverend Graham Lindley, Parish Priest at St Anne’s Church, Belfield, Rochdale, has backed Bernard and Lydia to the hilt. He is calling on the Home Office to grant them leave to remain in this country.
Former Rochdale MP Sir Cyril Smith is also backing Lydia and Bernard’s case and wrote to the Home Secretary on their behalf.
One of the reasons Lydia wrote the play that is now about to have its premiere was to find a way of coping with the horrors of what had happened to her, and also to raise awareness and educate people about Asylum.
Jasmine Ali, Lead Artistic Manager for CAN says: I have been working closely with Lydia over the last few months to help her produce a short play that she has written which highlights important issues faced by women asylum seekers in the UK. Lydia has been an inspiration for the artistic team with her dedication and commitment to the project. Without her contribution WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) would not have had the confidence to devise and perform their play to a wider audience.
Recently Lydia has been working with RAPAR and Commonword to collect stories about people in Manchester who are destitute. This publication is being launched in the spring. Commonword’s Artistic Director, writer Pete Kalu, says: “Lydia has been a tremendous resource in helping us to find new pathways to new writers in communities.”
Send messages of support to Lydia and Bernard
c/o RAPAR 6 Mount Street
or email firstname.lastname@example.org
And send your message that ‘Lydia and Bernard Must Stay’ to Home Secretary Alan Johnston, Quoting Lydia Ebok Besong & Bernard Oben Batey: HO Ref: B1236372
Home Office fax ~ 020 8760 3132
For further information contact:
Bernard on 079 3968 8487
Lydia on 079 0344 6289
RAPAR’s Press Officer Kath on 0161-225-2260 or email@example.com
RAPAR’s office: 0161-834-8221 or firstname.lastname@example.org
Dr Rhetta Moran
Friends Meeting House
6 Mount Street