An Eritrean national seeking asylum in the United Kingdom was jailed for nine years on Thursday for the rape of a drunken woman on a night out in Wigan.
Bolton Crown Court heard how the 37-year-old female victim had been socializing in the Wigan town center during the early hours of Dec. 18 when she became separated from her friends.
She was approached by 27-year-old Eritrean national, Ablolom Okbazge, who had visited a friend in Wigan. He discovered the woman in a “heavily intoxicated state” walking down the street, and CCTV footage showed that he changed direction to speak to her.
The court heard how Okbazge exploited his “paralytic” victim’s condition to lure her down a side alley off King Street to a secluded fire escape before subjecting her to an hour-long sexual assault.
Following the attack, the woman was walked to a taxi and was driven home. The taxi driver revealed the victim had been so intoxicated that she attempted to pay for the fare twice upon reaching her destination. The following day, she told her sister that she believed she had been raped.
Okbazge had been living at the Britannia Hotel in Standish, which had been housing asylum seekers under a government scheme. He was arrested by police at the hotel the following day and was remanded into custody until his trial.
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In a victim impact statement, the 37-year-old rape victim told the court: “What happened to me will live with me for the rest of my life. I burst into tears regularly, especially when I think about what happened.
“It’s always invading my daily life and sneaking into my head at some point every day — no matter how hard I try to stop it.”
Detective Constable Ray Williams of Greater Manchester Police’s Wigan division said: “This has been a very traumatic ordeal for the victim from the moment she was approached in the street and led into an alleyway by Ablolom Okbazge, right up to the present day. What Okbazge did that day is likely to affect the victim for the rest of her life, and the trauma will not simply go away just because the court process has concluded.
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“I would like to thank the victim for her resilience and bravery in reporting this incident to the police and giving us the opportunity to put a dangerous man in prison. I believe that because of her bravery, this has prevented the same thing from happening to somebody else,” he added.
While Okbazge is expected to be deported upon release, the court heard there could be delays to this if his deportation is contested, as has been seen with numerous other foreign national criminals using European human rights legislation to remain in Britain.
The Britannia Hotel in Standish had been the subject of fierce debate in the months leading up to this attack, with parents of school children in the village north of Wigan telling local media they were keeping their daughters inside due to concern over the behavior of a number of asylum seekers being housed in the nearby facility.
The local secondary school had even sent out a mass text message to parents in September last year titled “Stranger Danger Alert” in which they advised parents not to allow their children to travel alone.
Some of the adult men at the facility were accused of filming girls’ PE lessons, winking, and commenting on teenagers as they walked home from school; on one occasion, a 12-year-old was surrounded and filmed by the men.
Even the local Labour MP Lisa Nandy intervened and criticized the hotel’s use as a migrant facility, insisting it was entirely inappropriate and had been block-booked by Serco, a Home Office contractor, without any prior warning to locals.
These incidents are not in isolation. Just on Thursday, it was revealed a teenage boy was raped at a hotel housing asylum seekers in the London borough of Waltham Forest last month.
At the same facility in September, a male claiming to be aged 17 was arrested and charged with one count of sexual touching of a child under 13.
Residents local to hotels being used by the Home Office to accommodate asylum seekers have been expressing concern about their safety over claims that “gangs” of adult males were forming in their local areas and intimidating residents.
A local council in Derbyshire has written to the Home Office questioning the appropriateness of housing asylum seekers in a hotel in the small town of Sandiacre after reports of a group of asylum seekers causing a disturbance at the local dentist surgery and using nearby parks and woods as toilets.