Union leaders back community activist’s bid to avoid deportation

TRADE union leaders in Waterford city have called on the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell to reverse a decision to deport a South African woman involved in the promotion of cultural diversity and racism awareness in the city.

At a public meeting yesterday the Waterford Council of Trade Union (WCTU) called for special consideration “on the basis of merit” for 30-year-old Weziwe Olubuunor, who has been living in Waterford for four years.

The South African woman’s application for humanitarian leave to remain in Ireland has been rejected. She was informed this week that she must report to the National Immigration Bureau on January 27 to arrange her deportation.

“It is very regrettable that Weziwe’s application to remain in Waterford has been rejected, despite her involvement in the local community, and the close connection to Ireland which she has developed,” Tom Creedon, president of the WCTU remarked.

“This is an important criterion in deciding on a person’s request to stay in Ireland, and the Council believes that Weziwe has been very unfairly treated in this respect,” he continued.

Since arriving in Waterford in 2001, Ms Olubuunor has been involved on a voluntary basis in a number of high-profile community projects including the Waterford Healing Arts Project, the Imagine Waterford Arts Festival and with street-theatre company Spraoi’s annual festival in the city.

Most notably, the Council argues, she has worked to integrate migrant communities in the city, helping design the Know Racism leaflet and working with the Waterford Refugee and Asylum Seeker Council.

“When the Government is attempting to attract 40,000 migrant workers to fill vacancies in the economy, it is ironic that the Minister for Justice is planning to expel a talented young woman, who has proved what she can contribute to the community life of Waterford,” Mr Creedon said.

Representatives of the Council will present Minister McDowell with a letter asking him to rescind the deportation order when he visits the city to deliver a lecture at Waterford Institute of Technology on Monday night.

Ms Olubuunor, a former member of the ANC party in South Africa, originally made her case for asylum in Ireland on the grounds of political persecution.

Speaking yesterday, she admitted she may have lacked adequate documentation to back up her application, but appealed to the Minister to re-consider her case.

“I have come to love Ireland and its people and feel secure for the first time in my life. I am begging him to allow me to stay,” she said.

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