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Saturday, March 25, 2017
Bristol: supporters hold vigil for asylum family
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 A large crowd gathered at a candlelit vigil in Bristol on Saturday night to express support for a family of Colombian asylum-seekers, who say they fear for their lives if they are deported this week. Bristol's Catholic and Anglican Bishops have both sent letters to the Home Office appealing for the family to be allowed to stay. On Saturday, Virgelina (Lina) Castaño was taken in by immigration authorities for questioning under the 'Fast Track' system. Her eight-year-old son Miguel is recovering from an illness he contracted at Oakington Immigration Reception Centre, which was 'quarantined' at the time of their transfer for health reasons. Friends and neighbours of the family, who have rallied in their support, said at the vigil that the family's lives were "on a knife-edge". In a move that supporters say could only deepen the trauma felt by a family escaping paramilitary threats and murder in Colombia in South America, Virgelina and Miguel Castaño were seized in a pre-dawn raid by police officers and officials of the Home Office Immigration Service in Bristol, on 25 November. Miguel's father, who was not at home at the time, is now in hiding and wishes to remain anonymous for fear of reprisals against his family in Colombia. In the late 1990s Miguel's father was a whistle-blower about a company's involvement in toxic environmental pollution, a fact that has led to numerous threats against him and to the murder of several of his family members. Late in the afternoon prior to the raid, the family, through their solicitor, had received assurances from Home Office official, Helen Procter, that there was no intention to detain them. At 6am the next morning, Helen Procter, accompanied by seven police officers, raided their house with a warrant dated 18 November, one week earlier. Lina Castaño her son Miguel and Luis her husband sought asylum on arrival three-and-a-half years ago, having fled paramilitary intimidation that had already cost the lives of several close family members. Miguel is a much-loved member of St Nicholas of Tolentine RC primary school. His first action after detention was to write a letter apologising for his absence. He said he is still looking forward to doing his tap dance routine at the school's Christmas show next week. But if his mother's appeal fails, he may be on his way to Colombia by then.
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