Deportation order gives mother an impossible choice: Abeke Ajani faces deportation but cannot take her ill daughter to Nigeria with her. Heather Mills reports

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ABEKE AJANI faces an impossible choice unless an eleventh- hour intervention by MPs and pressure groups can bring about a change of heart at the Home Office, which is threatening to deport her this week.

Either she leaves her 18-year-old and chronically-ill daughter Funmi, a British citizen, to fend for herself in London. Or she takes Funmi to Nigeria with her, where the treatment she needs for her severe form of sickle cell disease - a hereditary blood disorder which causes painful, swollen joints, acute stomach pains and skin ulceration - is not available.

'What can I do? She is my daughter. Either way I put her at risk,' Mrs Ajani said yesterday, from the south London flat she shares with her daughter. 'There is no one else to look after her.'

The situation has come about because, although Mrs Ajani, 47, has lived more than 15 of the past 25 years in Britain, her indefinite leave to remain lapsed because of extended periods spent in her native Nigeria. Her two children, Funmi and Ayodele, were born in England.

A subsequent application by Mrs Ajani made in 1989, in order to look after Funmi, was refused by the Home Office because under immigration rules there is no direct provision to grant leave to stay for such a purpose. However, her lawyers - who are now threatening to take the case to the European Court of Human Rights - argue that the planned deportation is a breach of the right to family life and claim there are 'exceptional' circumstances under which Mrs Ajani should qualify.

Nigel Leskin, her solicitor, described it as one of the most 'irresponsible and unsympathetic decisions the Home Office has made'.

Although Funmi is 18, she looks about 12 or 13 and needs constant care. She regularly has crises caused by her disease, when she sometimes needs prolonged hospitalisation. She has been an in-patient three times in the past six months.

Doctors, health care specialists and teachers have all highlighted the role Mrs Ajani plays in Funmi's nursing care, pointing out that the state would have to provide care if Mrs Ajani were to be deported. Further, they say she also gives her daughter emotional support, which, if suddenly withdrawn, could worsen Funmi's condition.

Specialists at University College Hospital, where Funmi is treated, have also warned that she would risk HIV infection from blood transfusions if she were treated in Nigeria. And the Nigerian High Commission has confirmed the level of treatment she receives in London is not in any case available anywhere in Nigeria.

Kate Hoey, Mrs Ajani's MP, has now raised the case with Charles Wardle, the Home Office minister. A Home Office spokeswoman said the case was now under further review.

(Photograph omitted)