Deportation of suicidal Kurdish teenager halted

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The Independent Online

The planned removal from the UK of a suicidal Kurdish teenager whose traumatic experience of the British deportation process drove her to self-harm appeared to have been scrapped yesterday.

A German border police source confirmed that a private jet carrying Meltem Avcil and her mother had been expected to arrive in Dusseldorf at 9.55am yesterday, but officials from Britain had called to cancel the flight earlier in the morning.

The Independent reported earlier this week that 14-year-old Meltem was left depressed and traumatised by an extended stay at Yarl's Wood detention centre. Further details of the extent of her depression, though, can now be revealed. Meltem had cut her wrists and entered into a suicide pact with a fellow detainee.

The removal flight was cancelled shortly after a private visit by the Children's Commissioner, Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, was scheduled. The Children's Commissioner spent half an hour with Meltem in a private room at Bedford hospital yesterday morning.

Meltem was moved to Bedford from Yarl's Wood after a visiting doctor discovered her medical record. The doctor concluded that said that the young detainee "urgently required assessment by a child psychiatrist". According to the doctor, the girl's depression was evident. Meltem told her: "In here I'm like a dead person", and that "it's all down from here".

The doctor also saw scars on Meltem's wrists where she had attempted to cut herself. When asked why she had self-harmed, the 14-year-old said that she felt there was "no way out", and that she was convinced she would be sent back to Turkey.

The Home Office has been trying to remove 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.

Following the doctor's report, Meltem was transferred to Bedford hospital with her mother on Wednesday, where she first heard from her lawyer of plans to remove them the next day.

Speaking from her room in Bedford hospital yesterday, Meltem said: "The commissioner came and asked all about me. He stayed for half an hour, and asked about when they picked me up, and why I wanted to commit suicide."

Meltem continued: "The thing that made me depressed was that they put me in Yarl's Wood for three months and I couldn't go to school or see my friends." She alleged that the commissioner had made a guarantee that he would take her case directly to a minister in parliament. "I'd just like to go back to school with my friends," she said.

A spokesperson for the commissioner confirmed that he was "visiting a child in hospital in the Bedford area" yesterday morning. The spokesperson continued: "We do have concerns about detention when it comes to the length of stay for families seeking asylum. We realise these can bring up many emotional issues particularly for young people, and we are listening to children."

Maud Lennard, the Zimbabwean asylum-seeker whose difficulties at the hands of the asylum system were also reported in The Independent earlier this week, again resisted removal on Wednesday night. She had been due to be removed to Malawi, but screamed until the pilot ordered for her to be taken off the plane.

Last night Liam Byrne, minister for Immigration, said: "We do not comment on individual cases."

But he added: "We will not tolerate illegal migrants disrupting deportation from Britain and will take every step necessary, in the taxpayer's interest, to enforce returns of those with no right to be here."