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Jason Dzubow on Political Asylum

Paralympic Athletes Seek Asylum

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The Paralympic Games wrapped up earlier this week in London, and like the Olympic Games, some athletes have decided to seek asylum rather than return home.*

Two athletes from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Dedeline Mibamba Kimbata
and Levy Kitambala Kinzito, have supposedly filed for asylum in the
United Kingdom.* Ms. Kimbata seems to be the more well-known of the
two.* She was a teenage basketball player from Kinshasa who lost both
legs to a land mine when she was 18 years old. *"I thought my life was
over," she said.* "People told me I had a new life now, but I thought:
'How can you tell me this when you have legs and I do not?* Even if I
accept this new life I do not have legs.'"* After two years in the
hospital, where she often had to sleep in the corridor and borrow a
wheelchair just to reach the bathroom, she received prosthetic legs from
the Red Cross.*

Ms. Kimbata (left) received a racing wheelchair from Anne Wafula Strike, a Kenyan-born British athlete.

Ms. Kimbata is now a wheelchair racer.* She states that the DRC
received money for her to pay for a racing wheelchair, but she never
received the chair.* She arrived in the UK with her orthopedic chair
(which is designed to be pushed by someone else) and only received a
racing wheelchair when another athlete generously helped her out.

In the United Kingdom, she decided to seek asylum.* Ms. Kimbata told the press
that she saw her neighbors shot dead by government troops on election
day and that 95% of people in her area voted against President Kabila.*
While these events probably would not qualify Ms. Kimbata for asylum (at
least under U.S. law), the fact that she is a high-profile athlete
speaking out against her government may put her at risk, particularly
given the repressive nature of the regime in her country.* For these
reasons, she likely has a good chance for success in her asylum claim.

It seems that all together, at least six Congolese athletes and
coaches (from the Olympics and the Paralympics) have requested
protection in the UK.* As I have written before, such high-profile
defections are a powerful repudiation of the home government, and
hopefully they will help bring about some desperately needed changes.

Finally, having assisted many asylum seekers in the United States, I
have witnessed how difficult it is to leave everyone and everything
behind to seek refuge in a foreign land.* It must be even more daunting
for someone like Ms. Kimbata, who will have to live with her serious
disability in a new place and (presumably) without family support.* She
is obviously a very courageous woman, and I hope that she will find
safety and success in her new country.

Originally posted on the Asylumist:

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