Nigerian allowed to stay in Britain

FOUR WEEKS ago, Florence Mokolo ended more than two years of uncertainty and suffering when the Home Office granted her leave to remain in the United Kingdom. She had come to Britain in 1991 to work as a domestic servant for a former district nurse.

In February, her employer, Elizabeth Chandler, 38, a Nigerian with British residency, was jailed for 18 months for bringing her into the UK illegally. The court accepted Florence, 22, had no idea of this.

Chandler was also given a three-month sentence on two counts of causing actual bodily harm - to Florence and to Francisca Ifekaozor, 26, another young Nigerian woman that Chandler had lured into service. She was arrested by police after a series of articles in the Independent exposed the conditions in which the women were forced to live.

Francisca escaped first. She was beaten, forced to sleep on the floor, and rarely given adequate food. Chandler had met her in Lagos and told her that if she came to London and worked she would be able to continue her studies. But she was never given the time, or any wages. Finally she was attacked with a baby intercom and her head was split open. She escaped through the bathroom window and has been living in a women's refuge since.

In January 1991, Chandler approached Florence in Lagos, offering her similar incentives. She was beaten with Chandler's high-heeled shoes on occasion and, like Francisca, prohibited from leaving the house.

It emerged during the police investigation that Chandler had used Francisca's passport to bring Florence into the UK. Chandler had told the Home Office that Francisca was a relative and, as a result, Francisca was given permanent leave to remain in the UK.

Once the truth of her captivity was revealed, she was allowed to stay in Britain. Florence, however, was not. For both women, testifying at the trial involved considerable courage. The judge accused Chandler of 'flagrantly flouting the immigration laws for reasons of selfishness in order to replace one unpaid skivvy for another. You treated them as chattels'.

(Photograph omitted)

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