Clarke urged to let mother stay in UK

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A DEMONSTRATION was last night mounted outside the Nottinghamshire home of Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, in protest at his decision to deport a woman to her native Punjab, while her seven children remain in England. The woman, who has lived in Britain for eight years, was yesterday taken into custody with her youngest child - one of two born here - pending removal today.

Because six of the children are wards of court in the care of the eldest daughter, they cannot leave the country without court authority. They cannot be identified because of the wardship case.

Their case was seen as an important test of the rights and welfare of children in immigration cases, because it was the first where wardship had been used to prevent removal. Usha Sood, a barrister and campaigner for the children, said: 'The voice and welfare of children have got to have some recognition even in immigration law. These children are totally integrated into the English society.'

But, in an indication that he does not want the case to set a precedent, Mr Clarke yesterday issued a robust defence of his decision to refuse the woman's plea to be allowed to remain on humanitarian grounds. He said: 'When parents are the subject of deportation action, we expect them to take their children with them and they usually do so. This family has created its own difficulties in that there is a wardship order preventing the youngest children's removal. This is a matter for the family. If the way became clear for them to join their mother, their departure would be facilitated at public expense.'

But his decision is to be challenged in the High Court today. The woman's solicitor, David Smith, said last night: 'We cannot accept that it is right for the Home Secretary to deliberately and unnecessarily separate a mother from her children on what may well be a permanent basis.'

The children's plight has aroused sympathy and support in Nottingham. Local MPs, religious leaders and parents at the schools where the children are pupils had urged for the family to be made a special case.

They came to England to visit relatives in 1984. While here they applied for asylum when their shop and home were destroyed in the riots which followed the murder of Indira Gandhi.

They were refused asylum in 1987 and issued with deportation notices in 1988 because they were 'overstayers'. They lost their final appeal against deportation in 1990. The father was deported last year. After being held in jail in India, he has now moved to Zambia.