A mother's legal battle to stop the Government deporting her sick, three-year-old daughter threatens to shame Britain over its treatment of child asylum-seekers in a test case being considered by the European Court of Human Rights.
The plight of Adedoyin Fadairo, who was born in America but has lived almost her entire life in London, has shocked asylum campaigners. She has been issued with deportation papers telling her to report to Heathrow where she must board a flight for the US, although she has no family there. The order warns her that while in Britain she must not breach immigration rules and threatens her with detention.
Home Office officials have also written to her mother informing her that her daughter, who has a serious kidney disorder, is not entitled to medical attention as she is not a UK citizen.
The case has been taken up by the European Court of Human Rights which will consider the girl's treatment and the legality of separating families who are claiming asylum in this country.
The 32-year-old mother, a Nigerian citizen whohas lived in Britain for 10 years after fleeing persecution, is being held at Yarl's Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire where she is facing removal to west Africa. She has been separated from her daughter for 10 months.
Now the European Court of Human Rights has ordered the UK government to cancel the deportation so it can investigate the case.
Adedoyin is being cared for by her grandmother in London while her own daughter is detained. Repeated attempts to reunite mother and daughter have been rejected by the government, which has accused the mother of breaching immigration rules by allowing her daughter to benefit from medical treatment on the NHS.
The case highlights the ordeal of thousands of children caught up in the asylum system and raises concerns about Britain's reliance on an opt-out of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which it says is necessary to maintain an effective immigration policy. In 2001 the Government introduced a tougher policy for the indefinite detention of families with children without any formal recognition of the special legal status of children in international law.
In a letter sent to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in September the Strasbourg court has asked Britain to answer 12 questions about the Adedoyin case.
The Government's response to the court concedes that Britain intends to remove both mother and daughter to Nigeria. But Adedoyin's mother says that her daughter does not have the right to live in Nigeria because she was born in America. She says her daughter has a US passport and has lived in Britain with her mother before the mother was first imprisoned for a passport fraud earlier this year and then further detained under immigration rules. Adedoyin's father deserted the family after she was born and is believed to be in Nigeria.
The mother's claim for asylum is based on her membership of a persecuted human rights organisation active in Nigeria, of which her father was a leading member. The mother, who does not want to be named because she fears victimisation in this country and Nigeria, says: "After 10 years I thought I was safe here and now I find myself caught up in a nightmare where I have become separated from my daughter. All I want is to be reunited with her and allowed to continue to live as a family in Britain. What is so wrong with that?"
The family's supporters say the case illustrates the unseen injustice of hundreds of family asylum cases that are rejected by the Government each year.
A parliamentary report published last year found that thousands of people fleeing persecution in their own countries end up victims of a "degrading and inhumane" asylum system.
The MPs also raised concerns about the greater use of detention against vulnerable people such as children, pregnant women and those with health problems.
The Home Office said the Government would not comment on an individual case. But a spokesman added: "We take the welfare of children extremely seriously and would always treat their cases with care and sensitivity. Where families are involved we always make a full effort to keep families together. However, in extremely rare cases families may attempt to use their children to frustrate immigration rules."Reuse content