DON’T DEPORT OKAFOR-MEFOR – urge five trade union leaders


For the first time an alliance of General Secretaries of trade unions has come together in support of Alphonsus Uche Okafor-Mefor, a Nigerian refugee in detention and under threat of deportation.

This is unprecedented, said campaigners yesterday.

The General Secretaries are: Paul Mackney of UCU (the University and Colleges Union), Mark Serwotka of the PCS (Public and Commercial Service Union), Jeremy Dear of the NUJ (National Union of Journalists), Bob Crowe of the RMT (Rail, Maritime and Transport), Tony Woodley of the TGWU (Transport and General Workers Union).

They have all written to the minister responsible for immigration at the Home Office (Liam Byrne) protesting against both the detention and threatened removal of Alphonsus.

Paul Mackney of UCU said: ‘Alphonsus Uche Okafor-Mefor is presently being held in a detention centre and is due to be flown back to Nigeria where he has been previously detained and tortured.

‘This case is of particular relevance to trade unionists as he was due to speak at a forthcoming “No One Is Illegal” trade union conference, of which UCU is a sponsor.

‘He is a leading figure in the campaign group Asylum Voice who have campaigned against the abuses suffered by asylum seekers.’

Mackney added: ‘This coming together of general secretaries of major trade unions in support of Alphonsus is unique and shows that the labour movement is committed to the defence of refugees and others threatened by immigration controls – and shows why the slogan “No One Is Illegal” is a demand for justice and basic human rights.’

NUJ general secretary Jeremy Dear has said: ‘It is a sign of the anger we feel that Alphonsus should be facing deportation and the prospect of being imprisoned and tortured that so many leading trade unionists have come together to express our outrage and support the efforts of those who are fighting attempts to remove him.’

TGWU general secretary Tony Woodley said: ‘I am frequently appalled at the workings of our asylum system, which seems a mechanism for injustice in all too many cases.

‘The case of Alphonsus is one of them and I fully associate the T&G with the demand that he be allowed to remain in this country for his own safety.’

The No One Is Illegal trade union conference is one opposing immigration controls.

The campaign in defence of Alphonsus considers that it is his opposition to immigration controls which led to his arrest without warning and his being put in detention. ‘The Home Office is scapegoating Alphonsus,’ campaigners said.

Alphonsus claimed asylum in 2005. He has kept in regular contact with the Home Office, he has never gone underground.

Trade unions and anti-deportation campaigners prevented his deportation last February 28 after he was arrested without warning.

However Alphonsus is now back in detention, anxious that each day he may be taken back to the airport. In the meantime his solicitor has prepared a judicial review of the refusal to grant asylum.