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'These orders have us heartbroken': Protest planned against deportation of Athlone students

The couple live in a direct provision centre in Athlone.

ATHLONE STUDENTS WILL hold a demonstration outside the Department of Justice next week to protest the deportation of two students from the college.

Deportation orders issued to Azwidohwi David Nesengani and Fortunate Nesengani, who are from South Africa, are set to take effect on 2 September.

The couple have been in Ireland for four years and live in Lissywollen Direct Provision Centre in Athlone, Westmeath. Athlone Institute of Technology Students’ Union (AITSU) said it strongly believes David and Fortunate’s lives “will be at risk” if the deportation orders are not reversed.

Before coming to Ireland, AITSU said Fortunate had to flee Zimbabwe as a child to avoid recruitment into the Zimbabwe Liberation army.

When she married David she faced xenophobia from the community, experiencing beatings and her house being burned by a mob. David has also experienced xenophobic attacks from the community, with his house being burned. She suffered a broken leg due to these attacks and could not get treatment for this injury until she came to Ireland.

The student union said David previously worked as a community liaison officer in South Africa and “he fears he will lose his life from political party members if returned”.

AITSU also expressed concern about sending the couple back to South Africa during the pandemic. Last week South Africa’s coronavirus case numbers passed 500,000, representing more than 50% of all reported cases in Africa’s 54 countries.

“We truly believe to follow through with these deportation orders is signing the death warrant on our two students’ lives,” the union said.

David is a second-year student studying BA Applied Social Studies in Social Care in AIT, after passing first year in the institute with high marks. He previously completed studies at Moate Business school in 2017 and 2018.

AITSU said he has dedicated much of his time in contributing to community initiatives and volunteering with non-profit organisations.

Fortunate Nesengani is an access student who has come through AIT on the Sanctuary scheme, which grants scholarships to refugees. She has also completed further studies at Moate Business School and is an active member of the church Sunday school.

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Throughout the pandemic Fortunate has been making masks for the other residents at their direct provision centre.

President of AIT Students’ Union Áine Daly said described the couple as “two bright, extremely compassionate individuals who have given so much to our community and have so much more to give”.

She made an appeal to Minister for Justice Helen McEntee, who students have also written to about the case: “Please do not take this opportunity away from them. As College of Sanctuary students, protection must be available to them to continue with their education and to have the privilege of sustainability of life.

“They are two members of the AIT community and these orders have us heartbroken, Please Minister Helen McEntee revoke these orders, let David and Fortunate continue to be active members of our community and continue in their education. Please let them stay.”

The protest will take place outside the Department of Justice in Dublin on 18 August. AITSU said strict social distancing will be observed and there will be limited capacity for attendance.

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