Yorkshire church campaigns for Zimbabwean asylum seeker

 Parishioners at a United Reformed Church in Teesside are fighting to Zimbabwean woman who fled to this country after her family were killed for their opposition to the Mugabe regime. Edneth's husband, a prominent figure in the Movement for Democratic Change, and their four-year-old daughter were killed in March 2002. Then Edneth was abducted and taken to a rehabilitation camp where she was tortured and raped so badly she had to be taken to hospital, from where she made her escape. Edneth Gotora has just lost her application for asylum in this country on the grounds that it was her husband who was the activist. She fears she will be killed if she is sent back. More than 18,000 have now signed a petition organised by Edneth's local United Reformed Church in Stockton calling for her to be allowed to stay. The Reverend Colin Offor said: "There was a deluge. I wasn't expecting such a big response, it made me very unpopular with the postman. Certainly the local church community has taken this to heart. In this part of the world I think people are much more friendly and welcoming to people in trouble." The petition has been handed over to Frank Cook, Labour MP for Stockton North. Mr Cook said: "I have spoken with the staff in Charles Clarke's private office and am awaiting word from them for a suitable date and time for us to arrive on their doorstep and present this petition. The pitiful thing is that we pay lip service with a great passion condemning domestic violence. But this is taking place in Zimbabwe on a national scale, and it seems that unless some level of discretion is exercised by the Home Office Mrs Gotora is going to be returned to the same blood-stained kitchen, and this I cannot accept. Ministers have authority to consider the particular circumstances of any given case and exercise a level of discretion which takes a case out of routine regulation. This is one such case." The Home Office does not comment on individual cases, but said in a statement: "We are committed to the protection of genuine refugees who seek asylum in the UK. Each asylum claim is considered by the Home Office on its individual merits, in accordance with our obligations under the 1951 UN Refugee Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees and the European Convention on Human Rights." Source: ZW News

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