The deportation order against DCU student Shepherd Machaya was extended by the Department of Justice and Equality until February 5th, 2019.
Machaya was originally ordered to leave the country by Sunday, October 21st. He received the deportation order in early September before he was due to start back in college.
“I did not expect that kind of result,” he said. “Having run away from torture and death threats, there is no way under the sun I would expect to be sent back to that kind of situation.”
He had until October 24th to hand himself into the Garda National Immigration Bureau. Machaya went to the Immigration Bureau on the 24th, accompanied by several members of the DCU Students’ Union and a DCU staff member.
DCU SU President Vito Moloney Burke said they didn’t know which way it was going to go when Machaya was called into the booth accompanied by Gardaí. “You do kind of get that fear of ‘what if this is the day?’” he said.
“But then Shepherd comes out beaming and slightly bemused,” letter in hand, Burke told The College View.
Burke said that they have to bear in mind that the February date is a “terrifying date itself”. He said that “really quite soon we’re going to have to shift back into campaign mode”. However they first have to wait for legal advice, he added.
He described the “horrible room” in the Immigration Bureau as big, noisy and sweaty. He said that there were many people there in Shepherd’s situation who were “very much on their own”.
Machaya is a second-year Management of Information Technology and Information Systems student in DCU. He applied to DCU through their University of Sanctuary scholarship and was one of 10 applicants out of 62 to be successful.
He fled Zimbabwe nine years ago out of fear for his life. “They tortured me,” Machaya told The College View. He said he feels his life would be under threat should he have to return to Zimbabwe.
“This is a very difficult time for me. I am very depressed at this moment. I am trying, by all means, to get an education so that I will not be a burden to the state. I want to contribute to the state through paying tax and by being a role model to those in the asylum by demonstrating that education is key to success.”
The governing body did not give their reasoning for the decision to extend the deportation order. Burke said that their legal advisers commented that it was likely to be a result of the noise made publically around the campaign.
A social media campaign launched by DCU SU, dubbed “Save Our Shepherd”, contributed to over 14,000 signatures on a petition hosted on Change.org at the time of writing. The petition, addressed to Minister for Justice and Equality Charlie Flanagan, argues that Machaya “should be afforded the right to complete the studies he has thrived in thus far”.
In the petition, the SU said: “He has contributed so much to this country and has aspirations of continuing to do so”.
Flanagan has yet to publicly comment on Machaya’s situation.
Machaya said he faced violence and threats in Zimbabwe because he was vocal against the ruling political party ZANU-PF. After Machaya left the country he received news that his best friend has been killed. Machaya said his friend was not fortunate enough to leave the country when he did.
Former President of Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe was succeeded by Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2017. Mnangagwa was Mugabe’s second-in-command when he was president, and both represent ZANU-PF. Machaya said: “It’s the same people, it’s the same principles, it’s the same party that has been killing people”.
Burke said that within minutes of leaving the Immigration Bureau, Shepherd was saying: “I can’t believe I can go home tonight and actually study”.
Burke said that the whole experience has been “soul-draining for Shepherd” since he received the deportation order and the campaign to have it revoked began. “Everywhere Shepherd goes on campus, heads turn,” he said, adding that Machaya needed a well-deserved break before continuing with the campaign. “He’s like our local celebrity”.
“Yesterday was such a big win really because we had such a narrow time frame from the moment we found out about Shepherd’s situation,” said Burke. He said they threw everything they could at it which is what made for such an “explosive” campaign.
Machaya has been living in a Direct Provision centre in Portlaoise since he arrived in Ireland. In 2017, he completed a PLC in Computer Science in Portlaoise College. Machaya says he has a passion for technology and wishes to pursue a career in systems analysis once he graduates from DCU.
“Now I will try to focus on my education because this is an opportunity I can not let to slip through my fingers,” he said. “I have to hold on to this scholarship with a firm grip because it’s not a kind of opportunity that comes every day or every week. It is a lifetime opportunity that I have to make those that trusted me by awarding me the scholarship proud.”
Burke said that the “Save Our Shepherd” social media campaign “will be going on the backburner for weeks, at least while we get our heads around where to take this next”.
He said that Philip McKinley and DCU’s Interfaith Centre as a whole had been instrumental in providing refuge for Shepherd, “a place to go and rest, a place to go and take his mind off things”.
McKinley said it is vitally important that Machaya is allowed to finish his studies and that Machaya has been a spokesperson for the University of Sanctuary scholarship.
Burke also commended the widespread effort from students, who he said have done “whatever it takes on the ground”.
“As we saw with Shanowen Shakedown, it’s your everyday student, it’s the wider student body who put it such a shift,” added Burke. “They really got this one over the line.”
Burke said that the extension was the “best thing we could have hoped for”. He said the next step is to have the deportation order revoked completely.
Image Credit: The Irish Times