Kossi fights for student rights, runs for his life

Note: The name has been changed, but the facts have not.

Back in his West African homeland of Togo, Kossi was a bright, brave college student with a passion for activism. In 2013, while attending the University of Lomé, he and ten other students founded the Togolese Students Association. The purpose was to protect student rights and foster positive change.

The group submitted a formal complaint to the university administration that spring, upset that the Togo government had failed to release student funds provided by the United Nations. The students threatened to strike if the money was not rightfully distributed to the student body.

The government and university both ignored the complaint, so the students went on strike. The Togo military responded in force, arresting nine students, including Kossi. They were beaten, questioned, and held without food or water. Their parents were forbidden from seeing them. They were held for ten days; before their release, soldiers threatened that if they went on strike again, they would make them “disappear.”

By June 2013, the students still had not received their funds and organized another strike. University administrators responded by failing all twelve students in the association, regardless of merit.

 The students protested one more time in November that year. All twelve leaders were expelled from school, and several were arrested. Kossi escaped arrest and rallied human rights groups, who helped get his peers released from prison. The military was now harassing Kossi and his family regularly. 

In 2015, Kossi and others in the association formed a larger resistance group, called Flambeau Citoyen, as frustration spread among other students. Despite peaceful appeals to the Mayor of Lomé and a signed petition to the President of Togo, Kossi and other activists were again threatened, arrested, beaten, deprived food, and psychologically tortured.

 In December 2015, Kossi came to the U.S. with a student visa.

The following May, he contacted LCSNW’s Safe Route Immigration program, which filed an affirmative action asylum application on his behalf.

Kossi later married a like-minded activist and US citizen. Safe Route filed a family petition on their behalf, and Kossi received his lawful permanent residence in June 2022. The couple welcomed their first child a month earlier. They live in Albany, Oregon.

 But more than six years after applying for asylum, Kossi is still waiting for his interview.