Refugee from genocide to be kicked out

A CHARITY worker who fled Rwanda when his family were murdered and set up a new life for himself in Edinburgh today faces being sent back to his homeland.

Visit the website set up to support Rene and sign the petition, or go to the Action Group website to find out about Rene's work with the disabled. Rene Murabukirwa - who has lived in the Capital for the past seven years - works with physically and mentally disabled adults and is described as a popular, hard working and caring member of the community in his adopted city.

But the 28-year-old was arrested at his Edinburgh workplace last week and is now being held at Dungavel House Immigration Removal Centre near Glasgow.

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He is to be deported on Thursday to Rwanda, where most of his family were murdered.

His girlfriend, Aneta Jarzmik, and dozens of friends and colleagues have launched a desperate appeal for him to be allowed to stay in the UK. They are afraid he will face persecution if he returns to his native country.

Rene escaped from Rwanda with his brother in 1996, days before Tutsi rebels killed his parents, sister and cousins in their home.

Speaking from Dungavel House, he said: "They say Rwanda has improved but there are still troubles. I believe my family were all killed.

"Everyone was at home at the time. My brother and I managed to escape before the genocide.

"I saw killings. I lost so many people. When you lose one it's bad enough, but so many of my family and friends were killed. I could never feel safe there. Situations like this bring it all back to me.

"It's really tough at the moment. It's like being in prison. I feel desperately alone. You keep busy, you try to talk to people, but most of the time you stay in your room. It's horrible when Aneta phones and she's in tears. I've had several friends come and visit and that's what keeps me going."

Rene was given temporary leave to remain in the UK as well as a work permit, and told his case for permanent asylum was under consideration.

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He studied English and media in London before moving to Edinburgh in 1999, where he began an HND in media studies at Stevenson College.

Rene has been a support worker with the city-based charity Action Group for three years, where he helps adults with mental and physical disabilities.

His application to stay in the UK was turned down in 2004 on the grounds that Rwanda was now safe, and an appeal was rejected the following year.

The case was delayed when a psychiatrist confirmed he was suffering from depression and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But he was finally called to the immigration centre at Edinburgh Airport on March 7, an appointment Rene tried to reschedule due to work commitments.

Instead, immigration officers went to his Dalry flat earlier this month.

When they found he wasn't home, two officers and a policeman arrested him at work the next day. He was held in police custody overnight, before being taken to the detention centre.

"If they had looked at my case in 1996 or 1997, I would have got a visa, but they delayed it until Rwanda was considered 'safe'," he added.

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Aneta, a 22-year-old Polish student and barworker, said: "It was a massive, massive shock to me when he was arrested. He's been living here for 11 years working and studying, and has never done anything wrong. He's got his whole life here. When I heard he was arrested, it was one of my worst nightmares coming true. One of our friends came to tell me. I started crying, I couldn't believe it."

Russell Taylor, a software designer from Dalry, who has been friends with Rene for six years, has set up a website and petition calling for him to be allowed to stay. He said: "He's a real member of the community. It's very clear that everybody thinks a lot of him. This is a terrible miscarriage of justice."

David Carson, 33, a fellow support worker at Action Group, which is based in Norton Park on Albion Road in Leith, said: "All of Rene's colleagues and clients are shocked and upset about what has happened.

"He is a very likeable person and he's been very good at doing a demanding job. Not everyone can work well with adults who have learning disabilities but Rene does it very well."

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said it could not comment on individual cases.

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