There’s power in the community: Otis granted sanctuary


We were delighted to hear the news last week that Otis Bolamu was granted the right to remain. Otis, originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo but now truly claimed by Swansea, was detained and faced imminent removal at the end of 2018.

Otis’ community had something to say about this. Supported by Hay Brecon and Talgarth Sanctuary for Refugees, his campaign took off. There were notices up in the Oxfam shop in Swansea where Otis volunteered, Hay Festival (another place Otis had volunteered) gave ongoing support to his campaign, his representatives in the Welsh Assembly and Westminster got involved and nearly 70,000 people signed his online petition.

This is a beautiful story of solidarity but it’s also important to note that this was successful in combination with urgent, highly-skilled legal representation. Public campaigning alone is almost never enough but can be a boost to a legal case, as Otis’ lawyers have said themselves:

Going public is not ok for everyone. For some people, it would put them in danger if they were returned to their country – or their family in danger no matter what. Some people fear hostility from their community in the UK, or simply do not want the extra attention.

Take a look at our video about the risks of going public with your story (as part of a campaign to get the right to stay in the UK):

You can watch the video in other languages – see our YouTube playlist here.

There are lots of things that friends, family and your community can help with that don’t involve going public. Have a look at the ACTION SECTIONS in the Right to Remain Toolkit for ideas.

Of course, justice should not just be for those who can leverage this incredible level of community support or media attention. Satbir Singh of JCWI wrote an excellent article about this – have a read here.

We are so glad that Otis’ community was there for him, but we wish it hadn’t been needed. We wish he had been made safe without this fight.


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