Immigration: Mother consigned to certain death by harsh new rules

A young mother fell ill and died on a visit to Britain - an innocent victim of the hysteria over so-called health tourism

When Ese Elizabeth Alabi fell ill while on a trip to Britain and was told she urgently needed a heart transplant, she comforted herself with the knowledge that she was in a democratic country with an excellent healthcare system.

Instead, she was consigned to a certain death by draconian new rules brought in to quell the hysteria over so-called health tourism and immigration.

Ms Alabi was denied the chance of a heart transplant simply on the grounds of her nationality and died in hospital on Monday night at the age of 29, leaving three-month-old twin boys and a two-year-old son. Desperate attempts to get a High Court judge to overturn the rules were delayed as Ms Alabi was forced to fight a deportation battle even as she lay dying in hospital.

Her partner, Abiodun Abe, attacked the restrictions that relegated his partner to a lower priority than less sick patients. He said: "I am so angry. I love Britain and I thought it was a fair place but my wife has died because of these laws.

"Ese was devoted to God and was a good person. She always had faith that the judge would be good to her and that she would get a heart but it didn't happen."

Ms Alabi's case offers a graphic illustration of the other side of Britain's immigration debate, fuelled this week by the Home Office's admission that it has no idea of the number of illegal immigrants in the country. The Government's new rules, brought inlast year in an effort to quell fears of foreigners coming to Britain to take advantage of the NHS meant that Ese was effectively denied any chance to live.

A last-ditch bid was launched last week to persuade the High Court to overturn that decision but Ese's condition deteriorated before a judge could rule.

Richard Stein, a solicitor with the law firm Leigh Day and Co, who represented Ms Alabi, said: "I accept that there is a shortage of organs and that there was no guarantee that Ese would have got one, but she should not have been denied the chance because of the country she came from.

"After all, organs transplants are not decided on the basis of the colour of a person's skin.

"She was not a health tourist - she simply had the misfortune to fall ill here." He added: "I accept that we have to have rules to stop people from taking advantage of the NHS but they should not discriminate against people with genuine need because of this obsession about immigration.

"I think it is appalling that a civilised country like Britain treats someone like that.

"Her death was unnecessary."

Ese lived in Nigeria with her two-year-old son from a previous relationship and met Mr Abe when he returned for a visit there.

He has indefinite leave to remain in Britain and until recently worked for the Post Office.

As their relationship flourished, Ese made regular visits to Mr Abe at his home in Grays, Essex, but never overstayed her six-month tourist visas.

She travelled to Britain in September last year while pregnant with twins by Mr Abe and intended to return to her family in Nigeria to have the babies, but began feeling ill and breathless and was told she could not fly home. The twin boys, Jamal and Jazar, were born on 13 February but Ese's condition continued to worsen and she was taken to hospital in March.

She was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, which causes the heart to become enlarged, and was told her only hope was a transplant.

But she was then told that the new rules meant that while British, EU citizens and people from some other countries were put on a priority "group one" list for donor hearts, she would only put on a lower, group two list. With about 100 people on the group one list at any time and a shortage of organs, it meant she had no chance of receiving the heart she needed.

Lawyers went to the High Court asking for a judicial review of the rules but then had to fight on a second front after it emerged that Ese's illness meant she had overstayed her visa, which expired on March.

The judge adjourned the case for inquiries to take place about Ese's application for exceptional leave to remain, but by last Friday she had become so ill that doctors said she would not withstand a transplant even if a heart became available and she was at the top of the list.

Mr Abe said: "She was a very strong person and she tried to hold on. I took the babies to see her on Monday night and she gave them a kiss and touched them. I took them home and as I was taking them upstairs to bed the phone rang to say she was dead."

He now wants Ese to be buried in Britain so that the sons who never knew her will at least have her grave to visit.

A spokesman for the Department of Health said: "This is a tragic case, and we wish to express sympathy for Ms A and her family. It has involved an extremely sad and difficult process.

"Whilst no person is wholly excluded from receiving an organ, priority is given to those who are entitled to NHS treatment. We believe this to be a lawful, fair and reasonable way of allocating organs, and it is clearly supported by those who work in the field."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Personal Tax Senior

£28000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Customer and Markets Development Executive

£22000 - £29000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company's mission is to ma...

Recruitment Genius: Guest Services Assistant

£13832 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This 5 star leisure destination on the w...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Account Manager

£20000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Sales Account Manager is requ...

Day In a Page

Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border