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Confessions’ of a Mungiki man and tall tales asylum seekers tell

By - John Ngugi Updated Sunday, June 2nd 2013 at 00:00 GMT +3
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The London Diary with John Ngugi

When a British newspaper splashed a screaming headline that a Kenyan living in UK had admitted killing up to 400 people and indiscriminately mutilated women, the country was thrown into shock and disbelief.

The question on everybody’s mouth was why such a self-confessed dangerous member of the Kenya’s dreaded Mungiki gang, could have avoided criminal justice by fleeing to Britain where he has applied for political asylum. 

While people were up in arms with their government’s slack immigration policy that allowed criminals to regularise their illegal stay in Britain, what was even louder was the silence by the Kenyan community in the UK, where the confessed Mungiki adherent, John Thuo lives.

In a close-knit group like the Kenyan community in the UK, the silence is understandable.  Firstly, issues pertaining to one’s immigration status are only talked about in hushed voices, if not behind closed doors and always looking over one’s shoulders.

Secondly, almost every Kenyan believes that the allegation of 400 people killed by John Thuo was a cock-and-bull story, aimed at earning him a stay in the UK as a refugee running away from persecution by the Kenyan authorities. A good number of other immigrants, especially from Africa, Asia and Middle East who sought political asylum in the West know only too well that some of the gruesome stories they told immigration officers were mostly a figment of their and their handlers’ rich imaginations.

Few will openly accept this for fear of having their cases rejected and losing their immigration status. But a forensic analysis by the immigration officers of the accounts in the application always returns fraud.

In their desperation to avoid being deported to their poverty-stricken villages, political asylum seekers were always given ready-made statements by their handlers and told to memorise each and every word and answers to possible questions, which immigration officers were known to ask. It is correct to say that most people did not understand the implications and consequences of attesting to such statements. By adopting them as their own, they were confirming that all the allegations threaded up were true accounts of their lives, no matter how criminal they were.

For a case of an asylum seeker to succeed, one has to show why he was running away from his country. It is this account of event leading one to self-exile that most immigrants call a ‘story’ and some of these ‘stories,’ sometimes were too grave and bordered on criminality.

But most asylum seekers do not accept to adopt those pre-prepared statements because they knew the legal implications but because they are poorly advised by their handlers, who in most cases were immigration lawyers keen to make a quick buck. It goes without saying that for a person to be granted asylum-seeker status in the west, he has to tell a ‘story’ that sounded so bad that a responsible and democratic government would have no choice but offer protection to such a person as provided for by the International Humanitarian laws.

In fact, most immigration lawyers in the West are known to store templates of hundreds of suitable ‘stories’ from most countries that can, within a short time, be copied, modified and held to be the statements suitable for a particular client.  Clients of such lawyers usually part with thousands of pounds for the often half-baked casework.

John Thuo’s case falls in this category. There is no documented evidence in Kenya that a single person, like Thuo, may have been responsible for so many deaths as outlined in his statement to the Immigration Appeals Tribunal, which was hearing his case recently.

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