A FAMILY has won the right to stay in Britain after The Bolton News won its campaign to stop them being deported to a war-torn country.

The Sukula family, who live in Great Lever, were today celebrating after the Government granted them indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

It acknowledged the strength of their connections with the country and the decision marks the end of a three-year battle to stop them being sent back to the volatile Democratic Republic of Congo.

Mother Ngiedi Lusukumu, aged 42, said: "I slept properly for the first time since arriving in this country after I found out we were allowed to stay.

"For the first time I feel my family, my beautiful children, are safe and have a future. We are no longer living in fear of being sent to a place where our lives would be in danger. The threat to my family was very real."

Mrs Lusukumu arrived in Bolton in January 2002 with her children Flores, aged 21, Daniel, aged 18, Destin, aged nine and Sarah, aged seven.

They were joined by their father Kiala Sukula, aged 45. Their two youngest children, Exauce, aged five and Miracle, aged one, were both born in Bolton.

The family said they were forced to leave their homeland because of political persecution. Mrs Lusukumu says she was beaten by government militia men because of her family's support for opponents of the regime.

Friends helped the family escape the country and they spent days travelling by car and plane in a bid to seek sanctuary in Britain.

But the family's plea for asylum was rejected by Home Office officials in 2005, after which The Bolton News launched its "Let them Stay" campaign to ask they be allowed to stay on compassionate grounds.

As part of the campaign, The Bolton News went to Westminster to hand-deliver a petition to Home Office Minister Tony McNulty.

The Border and Immigration Agency this week relented and granted the Sukulas a right to stay.

A letter to the family stated: "This leave has been granted exceptionally, outside the Immigration Rules. This is due to your strength of connections in the United Kingdom, length of residence in the UK and other compassionate circumstances."

The move means members of the family can now work and go on to university.

Daniel is currently at Bolton Community College and wants to study electronic engineering at university. Flores will now be eligible for student loans to allow her to start her health studies degree at Manchester Metropolitan University, while the others can continue in their primary schools.

The Bolton News campaign also highlighted Section 9 of the Asylum and Immigration Act, which scrapped support for asylum seekers and threatened to take children into care if their case for sanctuary was thrown out.

The Sukula family was one of the first to be affected by the legislation, which has since been reviewed and is no longer automatically implemented. They had to survive on handouts from supporters.

Mr Sukula said: "I want to say thank you to everyone who supported us. My family will make a real contribution to this country and appreciate every opportunity they will now have. We will no longer be scared when there is a knock on the door.

"We feel Britain is our country and Bolton is our home. Without of the support of the campaign we could not have come this far."

He added: "I am so sad what is happening in my homeland, I know while the rest of the world takes the country's minerals people are suffering. We are so lucky and so happy."

Daniel added: "Since arriving in this country I was scared to look to the future. But now I can do things all young people do. I am no longer scared everytime I hear a knock on the door thinking they have come to send us back."

Leading campaigner Jason Travis said: "I do feel that the pressure of the campaign did help secure this victory. We are delighted with the news.

"While we celebrate this we have to think of all the others fighting to stay safe and not be deported."