Target:
UK Home Office
Region:
United Kingdom

Unless the process is stopped, Yidnek Haile - a student currently studying at the University of Manchester - will be deported from the UK on Thursday 22 December 2011, spending this Christmas and many Christmases to come in the brutal environment of an Ethiopian jail. His crime? Using Skype.

Yidnek was a student leader in Ethiopia, and came to the attention of the government in 2004 after leading protests against university authorities about the poor treatment of students.

Since that time, he has been arrested three times and suffered serious physical mistreatment. On the most recent occasion, a police informer came into the Internet café where Yidnek works. He saw Yidnek using Skype, and showing others how Skype works.

Although many people working for the government use Skype with impunity in Ethiopia, the police used the country's draconian telecommunications laws to claim that Yidnek was running an illegal phone service that sought to compete with the state's monopoly.

Learning that the police were going to proceed with this prosecution and would ensure a lengthy jail sentence for him, Yidnek claimed asylum while attending a conference in the UK.

While awaiting the outcome of his asylum application, Yidnek lived in an asylum hostel in Salford and has been undertaking voluntary work with his local church, with an HIV/AIDS charity, and with a refugee support charity. In September 2011, he began studying part-time for a Masters degree at the University of Manchester, helped by a scholarship that waived fees in recognition of his situation.

He has been living on £35 per week of food vouchers; walking the four miles from his home to attend his lectures because he cannot afford the bus fare. On 14 December, he was detained by the UK Border Agency, told his asylum application (Home Office ref: H1221584) was refused, and transported to Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre, with his deportation flight already arranged.

Yet additional evidence is still being produced to support his claim; the latest of which was a medical examination in respect of his mistreatment while in custody in Ethiopia.


We, the undersigned, call on the UK Home Office to stay the deportation of Yidnek Haile in order to allow all evidence in his case to be fully considered; to enable a judicial review of the case if appropriate; and to consider discretionary leave to remain in the UK in view of his fear of imprisonment and mistreatment in Ethiopia and his contribution to UK society through voluntary work and study.

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