Appeal to save African academic, Dr Minutet Menjeta

By Jessica Shaughnessy, Daily Post Staff
WHEN Dr Minutet Menjeta came to Merseyside she was a leading African scientist and academic with everything to offer.
But a catalogue of Home Office errors in her quest for asylum left her career in tatters and she sunk into depression.
Now, with nothing left to live for, she is to be deported back to Ethiopia on Monday where she fears she will be thrown into prison.
Last night, as 44-year-old Dr Menjeta was being held in a detention centre hundreds of miles from her friends and supporters, a campaign was mounting in Merseyside to keep her in the country.
Ewan Roberts, the manager of Asylum Link Merseyside, said: “The whole case has been a travesty. Minutet has been strung along for the last four years.

“She was told again to send the Government more information and a catalogue of mistakes meant her case took far longer than it should have done.
“Meanwhile, she has been unable to work and has fallen behind in a field in which she was once an expert to such an extent she has no prospects.
“If she had been told at an earlier stage she would not succeed, she could have moved on to a country where she would have been welcomed and had a future.
“Instead she has been left destitute. And now her life has been ruined, she is being sent away.”
A veterinary research scientist, Dr Menjeta came to Liverpool in August 2000 to study a Masters Degree at the School of Tropical Medicine.
At the time she had recently produced a report for the International Atomic Energy Agency into reproductive aspects of the TseTse fly.
She was one of the highest paid academics in Ethiopia and had delivered her papers to international audiences in Africa.
It is understood one of her papers may have embarrassed her Government and she refused to cooperate in what she saw as the corrupt handling of research funds, making enemies in her native country.
While she was studying, she heard like-minded fellow academics back home had been imprisoned through false accusations.
It was then she decided to apply for asylum, surrendering her passport to the Home Office.
With her Asylum claim pending, she also applied to the Highly Skilled Migrant Programme (HSMP) and her passport was transferred to this department.
But both applications were refused.
Dr Menjeta's friend, Dr David Britt, a former lecturer at the School of Tropical Medicine, said her friends could not understand why she scored zero in her HSMP application.
He said: “Minutet is a very confident and clever woman, she is extremely pleasant. She could contribute so much to our society and we are at a loss as to why she is not being allowed to stay here.”
A catalogue of errors and mistakes meant Dr Menjeta’s case then took four years to go through the system.
Correspondence was repeatedly sent to the wrong address, her passport was mislaid and evidence was repeatedly sent back unopened.
The National Asylum Support Service (NASS) withdrew their support without warning and her solicitors went months without replies from either NASS of the Home Office.
At one point, she was even sent a letter accusing her of non- compliance and threatening the use of an enforcement team.
Liverpool Riverside MP Louise Ellman took on Dr Menjeta’s case and in June 2005, she received a letter from the Government apologising for all the mistakes and confirming the case had been mishandled.
Ms Ellman said last night: “The Home Office have made a number of errors in this case.
“I have made numerous representations on behalf of Dr Menjeta. She has got a lot to offer this country and is somebody who could really make a contribution.”
Described as a “well educated and dignified person”, Dr Menjeta’s mental health has suffered with her ordeal.
She has spent the last three years staying with friends and getting money and food where she can.
Though she was not allowed to work, she was determined to serve the Liverpool community, working as a volunteer on a Lung Cancer research programme with the University of Liverpool and at the Glaxo Neurological Centre.
She also works on the allotment plot at Asylum Link Merseyside and other plot-holders are surprised to find a research scientist tending the tomatoes in the patch next door.
On Monday, she went to Liverpool’s immigration office to sign on, but she was taken into custody and then to a detention centre in Scotland, where she is said to be very distressed.
She was told immigration officers had instructions for her “removal” on Monday.
Dr Menjeta’s friends and solicitors are now trying to pressurise the Home Office to buy her more time, but last night it looked like it could be running out.
A spokeswoman for the Home Office said they could not comment on individual cases.
But they added: “The Home Office is committed to providing protection for those individuals found to be genuinely in need.
“All cases are carefully considered by trained case workers based on accurate and up to date information and taking into account all circumstances of the application.”

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