Greenman's Occasional Organ

Ecosocialist. Syndicalist. Critical Techno-Progressive.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Stop the threatened deportation of Mercy Murua and Peter Gichura

I am posting this urgent appeal from Winvisible (Women with visible and invisible disabilities) regarding two disability activists in Britain under threat of deportation.

Dear friends

We ask you to take action and speak out in support of Mercy Murua and Peter Gichura, two disabled activists who face almost certain persecution and death if they are deported back to Kenya (see enclosed information). Ms Murua is in WinVisible, and Mr Gichura takes part in our joint activities, including the “Claim the Buses” transport action day by wheelchair users, organised by Transport for All in August 2006. You may have seen them on ITN’s London Tonight news feature.

All of us who are working for disability rights and against all discrimination, including prominent people in the disability community, must be concerned about this official refusal to recognise the persecution of disability activists, and the refusal to grant asylum for life-saving medical treatment and living conditions.

Please contact us if you need more information.

WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities)


Support Mercy Murua and Peter Gichura, disabled activists at risk of deportation


Ms Murua and Mr Gichura are disabled activists from Kenya. In 1997, they set up the Mwanzo Disabled Development Society (MDDS), a group of disabled street hawkers. Mr Gichura was the chairperson and Ms Murua was the treasurer and spokeswoman for women. In 2000, MDDS was allocated a plot of land by the City Council, where they planned to live and work. When MDDS challenged the corruption of the Council in not handing over the land, the police made death threats and their hawking licenses were revoked. Fearing for their lives, they fled Kenya in 2001. Despite elections in 2002, fighting has continued in the country and both fear their lives will be in danger if they are returned.

Ms Mercy Murua, a wheelchair user, a disability activist and member of WinVisible (women with visible and invisible disabilities), is at imminent risk of deportation. Her claim for asylum on grounds of political persecution, ethnic persecution, access to medical care and refuge from rape has, so far, been rejected by the Home Office.

As a baby, Ms Murua contracted polio and was placed in a children’s home. Almost all of her childhood was spent in care. In 1992, her parents who are of Kikuyu decent, lost their home in a land-grab by Kalenjin people and others, Kalenjin people being the tribe of repressive President arap Moi. Ms Murua moved to Nairobi, and in 1997, started street hawking to survive.

Street hawkers who are Kikuyu were targeted by the Nairobi police. Those who could, ran off, but disabled people could not escape. They were beaten with staves, brutally loaded onto lorries, often without their crutches, etc., taken to the police station and detained. Ms Murua was particular vulnerable as a woman. Local police jeered that she could not fight them off and she suffered repeated sexual abuse and rape, including while detained in a police cell. As a result of one attack, she became pregnant and gave birth to her daughter. Anne Neale of Women Against Rape says: “Rape by police should be recognised as persecution and so as grounds for asylum, but when Ms Murua spoke about her traumatic experiences, she was accused of embellishing her claim and her case dismissed.”

Mr Peter Gichura is a father, a wheelchair user and disability activist. He applied for asylum from political persecution and for medical treatment without which he would die. His most recent application in 2006, when his spinal injury worsened, was refused with the words: "a person's medical condition must be at such a critical stage that there are compelling humanitarian grounds for not removing them to a country which lacks the medical and social services to prevent acute suffering before death". Is it acceptable that the right to life under the European Convention has been reduced purely to the right not to suffer unduly while dying?

When experts like Rachel Hurst OBE (Disability Awareness in Action and member of the Advisory Group to the government Office for Disability

Issues) confirm that, if deported, Mr Gichura, as someone with a spinal injury, would almost certainly not survive for long -- how much more “compelling” or “critical” can someone’s situation be?

Mr Gichura was detained in Harmondsworth detention centre, most recently in August 2006, in appalling conditions where he was unable to use the bathroom and toilet properly, was searched in a painful and threatening way, and on the first occasion (February 2006), given the wrong medication. He has launched a legal case under the Disability Discrimination Act (DDA) and Human Rights Act (HRA), however, if removed, he will be denied even the basic right to be present to prepare his own case.

Payday, a multiracial network of men, says: “Peter Gichura is a valued member of our network. He was persecuted for defending the rights of disabled people. We now defend him from almost certain death. With his life and organising experience he makes an enormous contribution, which neither we nor the community in general can be deprived of.”

Support has come from hundreds of individuals and organisations, including representatives of five major disability charities who appealed to Liam Byrne, Minister for Immigration.

Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, writing in support of Mr Gichura, said: ’I would underline the wider social consequences of handling cases like these in ways that entrench . . . a perception that the UK immigration regime is unbalanced, unjust and inhumane. I recall . . .the European Convention on Human Rights, “Everyone’s right to life shall be protected by law” ’. He proposes discussion with the Home Office “to find some more humane middle ground” than the current refusal of medical grounds (Letter to Liam Byrne, 12 October 2006).

People with disabilities have not only the right to life but also the right to live free from fear. We are calling on everyone, and especially those who speak for the disability community, to defend Mercy Murua’s and Peter Gichura’s right to protection and safety, towards establishing rights and protections for all.


Please write to or email the Immigration Minister Liam Byrne, demanding that Mr Gichura (HO ref: G1053958) and Ms Murua (Home Office reference M1116337) be granted the right to stay – see model letter on WinVisible’s web pages - or write your own.

Liam Byrne MP
2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF
fax 020 7219 2417
email and

Please copy to:
Anne McGuire MP, Minister for Disabled People
fax 01786 446513 email
Malcolm Wicks MP (Mr. Gichura and Ms Murua’s MP)
fax 020 8683 0179 email
WinVisible fax 020 7209 4761 email
Payday email


Donations are greatly appreciated towards the cost of phone and publicity. Please make your cheques payable to Payday or WinVisible, saying clearly that your cheque is for this purpose.

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