Judge presses for abandoned mother's return to her baby

Government urged to protect separated children from 'emotional harm'
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The Home Office will come under pressure this week to reunite a British baby boy with his mother after the High Court ruled that she had been stranded deliberately in Pakistan by her husband and in-laws who wanted to keep her son. As The Independent on Sunday reported last week, Aqila, 20, was drugged and forcibly taken to Pakistan in March when her prematurely born son was less than two months old. She was dumped outside her parents' home with her suitcases but no passport or visa by her British husband, who had tired of her after two years of marriage.

Mrs Justice Hogg urged immigration authorities to allow Aqila into the UK before mid-July in order to attend her son's welfare hearing. The child is living with his father, paternal grandparents and aunts in the North of England. These relatives bullied and abused Aqila from the minute she arrived in Britain in October 2008, the Family Division of the High Court was told last Friday.

Mrs Justice Hogg also asked that the Government find better ways to deal with abandoned spouse cases in order to protect young British children who are being "emotionally harmed" by separation from their mothers. An Islamabad-based human rights organisation, Sach, told the IoS that it comes across at least five women abandoned by British husbands every time outreach workers go into rural areas. Like Aqila, many of them have been separated from their children in Britain, then duped or forced into coming home before being dumped without the necessary immigration documents. Three similar cases have come forward to Aqila's solicitor, Anne-Marie Hutchinson from Dawson Cornwall, since last week's report in the IoS. Ms Hutchinson's nine current cases involve women from Iraq and the Congo, as well as the Asian subcontinent.

In her final written judgment Mrs Justice Hogg is expected to recommend this type of case be fast-tracked to the High Court and that a fact-finding mission is always undertaken to establish why the mother came to be marooned away from her children.

In a damning judgment, Mrs Justice Hogg said: "I do not accept that the grandfather knew nothing about it. He was fully aware that the marriage was failing and deeply involved in the plan to take her there and leave her stranded from her baby. Grandmother was aware of the plan, too... This was a callous way of behaving towards a new young mother and her very young baby. This is sadly not the first case of deliberate separation of a mother from her child. This is emotionally harmful to the child... it is abhorrent. It is selfish and cruel behaviour by those who do it."

She added: "The Foreign & Commonwealth Office was aware of this case, as was the UK Border Agency and the British High Commission. It was most unfortunate that she was not given permission to come in for this hearing... I make an urgent plea to the immigration authorities that this mother is able to enter this country for the purpose of the welfare hearing."

Speaking from Pakistan, Aqila last night was overjoyed at the judgment but pleaded to be reunited with her son. She said: "I am so happy that the truth has come out, but when can I get my son back? I think about him all the time. Please let me have my child back and then our lives can begin again."

A UK Border Agency spokesperson said: "We will consider the judge's comments in this case. Anyone with a child custody case before the UK courts can apply to enter the country for the hearing."

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