Kurdish girl, 14, released from detention after health concerns

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The Independent Online

A 14-year-old Kurdish asylum-seeker who escaped deportation to Germany this week was finally released from detention last night after serious concerns were raised about her mental health. Meltem Avcil and her mother are understood to have left Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre in Bedfordshire before being taken to bed-and-breakfast accommodation in Kent.

The Home Office has been trying to deport Meltem and her mother to Germany, where their asylum application was first refused, despite the fact that for the past six years Meltem has been educated in the UK, and is now fluent in English.

Last week The Independent reported that an attempt to remove the mother and daughter using a private security escort team was abandoned after a British Airways pilot refused to let them fly on grounds of health and safety. In a second aborted removal attempt this week it is believed the Home Office had chartered a private jet.

But doctors who have examined Meltem in Bedford hospital said they were very concerned about her mental health. The Avcil family, originally from Turkey, were visited by the children's commissioner who is believed to have brought their case to the attention of the Home Office.

Meltem, who spent three months in Yarl's Wood, said she was "very happy" to be released and now intended to travel back to Doncaster where the family had lived for six years and where they could be reunited with friends and supporters. "I am so happy I think I will burst. This is my best moment ever. I want to say thank you to the children's commissioner for not forgetting me," she added.

Robina Qureshi, director of Positive Action in Housing, who led the campaign, said: "We welcome and celebrate Meltem's release." She added that 1,583 supporters in Britain, Germany and France had written to express their outrage at her detention.

The release of Meltem and her mother followed criticism of the Government's use of detention in child asylum cases. A group of European MPs visiting three detention centres in the UK expressed concern over the length of time children were detained.

A Border and Immigration Agency spokesman said: "Detention is used only where necessary and this is especially true for families with children. Depending upon the individual circumstances of each case, we will always endeavour to keep families together."