Nepalese 'slave' loses her fight to avoid deportation

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The Independent Online
A NEPALESE domestic servant who claims she was kept as a slave by her employers has lost her fight to stay in Britain.

Kenneth Clarke, the Home Secretary, has backed a decision by the Court of Appeal earlier this summer to deport Mahesh Kumari Rai, 36, despite a year- long campaign to keep her in Britain. Supporters, who included the Archbishop of Westminster, Cardinal Basil Hume, and 25 MPs, argued that she should be allowed to stay on compassionate grounds. But the Home Office said yesterday that there were no grounds to make an exception for her under the 1971 Immigration Act.

She is expected to be deported 'within days' and has asked to be sent to India, where she has a sister, rather than to Nepal.

Ms Rai left Nepal when she was 13 to avoid a forced marriage and found work in Kathmandu and then in India. There she met the Singh family, who brought her to England as a domestic servant.

Ms Rai, who arrived in London in 1984, said that while she worked for Paul Singh, a wealthy property owner, she was routinely imprisoned within the house, was poorly fed and unpaid, and her passport was taken from her. She fled from her employers in 1987 unaware that her visa had been allowed to lapse.

Sister Magaret Healy, a leading member of the campaign to stop Ms Rai's deportation said: 'This is a gross injustice. Mahesh couldn't read or write and was being kept like a slave. How could she have been expected to make sure all her papers were in order?'

A spokeswoman for the Home Office said Ms Rai had only ever been in Britain legally for a period of six months. 'Her case underwent thorough scrutiny before the final decision to deport her was made,' she said.