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Friday, August 26, 2005 

New Labour, no compassion.

Just when you thought that this government could not sink much lower in the human empathy stakes, what with bombing Iraq and executing innocent Brazilians on tubes, they deport a settled integrated family despite fears for their lives.

The first time they were snatched by immigration officials at dawn before church on a Sunday. On the second occasion, they left 50 Weymouth teenagers weeping as they took a hired van to Heathrow.

And yesterday, Verah Kachepa and her four children were made to go through their third traumatic farewell to their adopted home as the Home Office finally deported the family to Malawi.

Two hundred local people, from pensioners to school children, gathered outside their flat and joined prayers, gave impromptu speeches and applauded the Kachepas on to a coach which immigration officials drove to the airport.

Today Mrs Kachepa, Natasha, 21, Alex, 17, Tony, 16, and Upile, 11, will wake in Zimbabwe before being flown to Blantyre in Malawi. Mrs Kachepa's eyes glazed over when asked what lay ahead.


The Kachepas legally arrived in Britain in 2001. Soon afterward however, Mrs Kachepa's husband left, returned to Malawi and started a relationship with the former dictator Hastings Banda's niece. They were warned never to return to Malawi, and death threats were also made. In response to this, the Kachepa's claimed asylum. They were refused, and have been fighting to stay in Britain ever since. Yesterday, after previously being arrested by immigration officials and held at a detention center, as well also having packed ready to leave only for the incompetence of the immigration service to temporarily reprieve them as no one arrived to put them on the flight, they were deported.

Why? What harm was this family causing to anyone? The family had integrated. The eldest daughter was to study at Southampton University to become a nurse. The eldest son is a talented musician and actor, receiving an award for his part in a short film. Verah Kachepa herself worked in a charity shop and helped out at a pregnancy centre. The whole family had campaigned for racial tolerance and understanding. What more could have been asked of a family? The tabloids constantly moan about "sponging asylum seekers". This family was the very opposite, yet they have fallen victim to the tabloid hate campaign. The government has only recently decided to become "tough" on asylum thanks to the lies and intolerance preached nearly every day by the Sun, Mail and Express. Thanks to stories such as "ASYLUM SEEKERS EAT OUR DONKEYS AND SWANS", a whole part of society which deserves compassion and help has become stigmatised and a scapegoat. The result? Families such as the Kachepas being deported back to countries where they may well end up imprisoned or even killed.

Despite the best efforts of the people of Weymouth who wrote letters, protested and elected a Labour MP who promised to save the family, the Kachepas now face a life of fear and uncertainty. Labour is now likely finished in the Dorset area. Worse than that, the immigration minister and services have shown their true faces. Targets for deportations and the tabloids are more important than the wellbeing of actual people. Not just a sad day for those who knew the Kachepas, but also for those who thought they were living in a country which defended freedom and the right not to live in constant fear.

A site for leaving messages for the family is here.

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