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Mother's last-ditch plea to Home Office against deportation

Zimbabwean family due to be expelled tomorrow

A Zimbabwean mother who has been refused asylum by Britain despite being a victim of Robert Mugabe yesterday revealed her terror at being sent back to the country.

Writing from her cell in Yarl's Wood detention centre, Priviledge Thulambo said she could not believe the UK Government was handing a "death sentence" to her and her daughters, Valerie and Lorraine. The three women are booked on a flight from Heathrow to Malawi tomorrow, but their solicitors will lodge an application for judicial review hours earlier, giving them a crucial delay in the proceedings.

The Home Office has refused to grant the family asylum because they entered Britain on Malawian passports. However the papers were forged as a means of escape from Zimbabwe seven years ago, meaning it is almost certain they will end up being sent to their home country.

Mrs Thulambo, whose husband was killed for supporting the opposition leader Morgan Tsvangirai, has been tortured and raped by President Mugabe's men. She arrived in Britain in 2000, and Valerie, 20, and Lorraine, 18, came here in 2004.

The family spent Christmas at Yarl's Wood after being arrested on 12 December. In her note, handwritten on Christmas Eve, Mrs Thulambo, 39, said they would be sent to jail in Malawi for their fraudulent documentation, before being deported to Zimbabwe, where they face torture and death.

"We can't believe that the Government can't see how much this is torture we are already suffering while we are here. As soon as we get to Zimbabwe, no matter where we are going to be, our lives are in danger.

"I call this a death sentence. I know people might ask why am I so afraid, but I know what I have gone through. I have been trying to be strong for my two daughters and with the help from my friends in Sheffield, but now I can smell torture and death.

"All these years I have been here I had started to feel comfortable and have a sense of belonging... I had started to rebuild my girls' lives and mine, hoping to be given permission to stay. Everybody knows what is going to happen when we are to be returned to Malawi. It is facing death. Only God knows what I am going through."

The family's MP, Angela Smith, and their former MP, the Liberal Democrat leader Nick Clegg, have protested at the decision to turn down their asylum applications. The Home Office insists it has followed proper procedures.