UK: Cameroonian playwright faces deportation

English PEN is deeply concerned by reports that UK-based Cameroonian writer Lydia Besong was detained early this morning when she went to report at Dallas Court Reporting Centre, Manchester.  According to our information, the Home Office is planning to deport Lydia and her husband, human rights campaigner Bernard Batey, within 11 days.


Lydia Besong is a writer whose debut play ‘How I Became an Asylum Seeker’ was staged by Community Arts Northwest (CAN) at the Zion Theater in Hulme, Manchester on 3rd December. She is also on the Management Committee of WAST (Woman Asylum Seekers Together). Bernard Batey has been leading the award-winning Human Rights organisation RAPAR in a partnership with Revive, Changemakers, Boaz Trust and Citizens for Sanctuary.  Together, they have opened Manchester’s first voucher exchange network.
On 29 October 2009, Besong and Batey received a letter from the Border and Immigration Agency telling them that they must go back to Cameroon, the country they fled from almost three years ago, on 17 December 2006. Both Lydia and Bernard had been tortured for being members of the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC) which fights for the freedom and liberation of southern Cameroon (English Speaking Cameroon). Lydia and Bernard’s MP, Paul Rowen, has stated that “Bernard and Lydia have a genuine case for political asylum and I don’t say that about every case I see.”
According to our information, one of the reasons Lydia wrote ‘How I Became an Asylum Seeker’ was to find a way of coping with the horrors of what had happened to her, and also to raise awareness and educate people about asylum. According to Jasmine Ali, Lead Artistic Manager for CAN, who has been working closely with Lydia to help her produce the play “Lydia has been an inspiration for the artistic team with her dedication and commitment to the project.  Without her contribution WAST (Women Asylum Seekers Together) would not have had the confidence to devise and perform their play to a wider audience.
Recently Lydia has been working with RAPAR and Commonword to collect stories about people in Manchester who are destitute, with the view of launching a publication in the spring. Commonword’s Artistic Director, writer Pete Kalu, says: “Lydia has been a tremendous resource in helping us to find new pathways to new writers in communities.”


We at English PEN believe that Lydia and Besong could face further persecution if deported to Cameroon. We are therefore urging the Home Office to grant them both leave to remain in the UK.



Please send appeals:


 – Calling for Lydia Ebok Besong & Bernard Oben Batey (HO Ref: B1236372) to be allowed to remain in the UK;
 – Expressing concern that if they are deported to Cameroon that they are at risk of further persecution for their peaceful political activities.


Appeals to be sent to:


Rt Hon Alan Johnson MP
Home Secretary
2 Marsham Street


UK Border Agency
Lunar House
40 Wellesley Road


NB. If sending your appeals via email, please cc:


Messages of support:


You may also wish to send messages of support to Lydia and Bernard:

Lydia Besong and Bernard Batey
c/o RAPAR 6 Mount Street
M2 5NS


Or via email:


For further information, please contact:

 – RAPAR’s Press Officer Kath on 0161-225-2260 or
 – RAPAR’s office: 0161-834-8221 or

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