The deportation order for DCU student Shepherd Machaya has been extended until February, according to Dublin City University Students’ Union (DCUSU) President Vito Moloney-Burke. Machaya received the news today at a meeting with the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB).
The move follows an extensive campaign by DCUSU that was supported by Trinity College Dublin Students’ Union (TCDSU) and the Union of Students in Ireland (USI). Last Friday, a group of over 80 students protested outside the Department of Justice and Equality, while a petition opposing this move has garnered over 14,000 signatures at the time of publication. The campaign, named Save Our Shepherd (SOS), has also received widespread support on social media.
Speaking to Trinity News, Moloney-Burke said: “There has been a very positive step today, but it’s still bittersweet. I’m thankful to so many people who just rallied behind this, and supported one of our own. So it’s a day of mixed emotions but after a very intense last week, it’s one for us that we just need to be thankful for.”
Speaking about the future of the campaign, Moloney-Burke said: “We are working very hard still. We have great legal advice – I suppose the very next step is to meet up with a team of advisors on the best approach for the next few days and, indeed, the next few weeks. Our diligent campaign team, they’ll have a few days off while we can gather ourselves together before the next strike kicks off.”
Machaya studies Management of Information Technology and Information Systems in DCU under the University of Sanctuary scheme. He was recently issued with a deportation order, which intended to fulfill his removal from the state by October 21. According to the Change.org petition, deportation would subject him to the “threat of torture from local ‘political’ groups, the very people who drove him out of the country nine years ago.”
DCUSU’s petition also notes that “like all students, he should be afforded the right to complete the studies he has thrived in thus far. Despite his challenging living circumstances in Direct Provision, he has overcome great odds to advance academically”. They also note that he had passed his first year in DCU with “flying colours”.
Speaking about the development, USI President, Síona Cahill, commented: “This a welcome and of course positive step, but the campaign is by no means over. In the immediate term, Shepherd is safe and is staying in Ireland but in the long term we have to work hard to ensure he can finish his college term.” Cahill continued: “It’s undeniable that the huge public support for Shepherd’s case and the SOS campaign were instrumental in extending the deportation order. The online petition has gathered over 13,000 signatures, students have aggressively tweeted and emailed TDs to raise knowledge and support, Shepherd and DCUSU appeared on Claire Byrne Live and garnered even more attention. The public attention has put pressure on the government and the extension of the deportation order is a result of this.”
DCUSU also released a public letter to the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, addressing the issue. It explains how Machaya fled Zimbabwe, and said that if he was to return “he would be in imminent danger, with the potential of facing more torture from political groups that he came here to escape”. It also added that this was “following the death of his best friends at the hands of the same”.
Concluding their open letter, DCUSU urged Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan to take “executive action on this case and revoke Shepherd’s deportation order”. They argued that from the “cries of students online and on the ground across our university and growing support”, that this decision is “in no one’s best interest”.