By Brónach Ní Thuama
AZIMBABWEAN asylum seeker has been speaking about his flight from danger and his hopes of forging a new life for himself in South Belfast.
Fungayi Mukosera fled Zimbabwe in October 2012 and has been seeking political asylum here since January 2013. He submitted a fresh claim in September 2014 and in October of this year he was told he’s not allowed to remain.
He says he suffered continuous intimidation and death threats from ruling party Zanu PF operatives. “Their main reasons were my affiliation to the MDC party activities and members,” he said. “The death threats and confrontations had forced me out of my job, I was alienated, I lost my social life, even my mother could not feel safe having me in her own house.”
In October 2012 he left his job as an accounts assistant and sneaked out of the country. “I had experienced physical attacks in our own home back in 2002 at the height of political violence in Zimbabwe and I could not risk going through the same experience again this time. I made full submissions of these accounts and even continuous surveillance abuse that I still suffer from the infiltration of the Zanu PF agents.”
He added: “During my stay in Northern Ireland, I have maintained my affiliation with the Zimbabwean opposition party through the UK and Ireland external structures. I was the chairman for the Belfast branch and now I am the MDC UK and Ireland Youth Information and Publicity Secretary. I am sometimes asked to contribute to online Zimbabwean newspapers. I have well submitted evidence to this regard with the Home Office as well.
“I am a management committee member for ACSONI (African and Caribbean Support Northern Ireland). I volunteer with NICRAS (Northern Ireland Community of Refugees and Asylum Seekers) and the Red Cross. As well as this I have been volunteering with our church day care nursery as an administration assistant. These experiences have helped me to adapt to life in Northern Ireland and have been a way for me to be grateful for a community that has received me well and still gives me sanctuary.”
Fungayi says he wishes to have the same rights and freedom as anyone else and wants to feel like he belongs to a free society and to make a positive contribution to it. “I have gone through long, distressing periods during my life in Zimbabwe, my only hope is to find peace and have my personal dignity restored.”
South Belfast MLA Máirtín Ó Muilleoir is backing Fungayi in his bid to overturn the ruling.
“The effusive welcome given to the first batch of Syrian refugees needs to be replicated across the entire sector of refugees and asylum seekers,” he said.” I am particularly concerned at reports of those fleeing persecution in their own countries being unable to access sanctuary here and falling into destitution. It’s crucial that powers over refugees and asylum seekers are devolved to Stormont so that we can respond to this challenge properly.”
Asylum advisor from Bryson Intercultural, a sub-unit of the Bryson Charitable Group, Sebastine Aluko James, said: ‘As the main reception centre for asylum seekers in the region, we have worked with Mr Fungayi since his arrival. He has since been actively involved in community work, sits on the committee of ACSONI and volunteers with the Larne detention group. He is highly resourceful and a great example of what asylum seekers and refugees could bring to our community. I borrow this quote from Urkhan Alakbarov. ‘So often the world sits idly by, watching ethnic conflicts flare up, as if these were mere entertainment rather than human beings whose lives are being destroyed. Shouldn’t the existence of even one single refugee be a cause for alarm throughout the world?’”