Letter: Deportation: the harm to families

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The Independent Online
Sir: Since 1993 the churches have been expressing concern over families or family members facing deportation, particularly where the family has been resident in Britain for at least five years, with a child or children more than two years old. The Council of Churches for Britain and Ireland supports an "amnesty" for such families.

We were therefore disappointed to learn that on 8 May, one week after the election, despite representations from the Churches Commission for Racial Justice, a father who has two British children with a partner who has the right to remain in the UK was deported to Nigeria. We accept that this man's immigration record was poor. He had been told to leave the UK in 1987 and had not done so. However the partner and children who are left behind will suffer as much as he will, if not more.

The European Convention of Human Rights, to which Britain is a signatory and which Labour has said will be incorporated into British law, says in Article 8: "everyone has the right to respect for their private and family life". The Home Office says that by offering the mother and children a free trip to Nigeria it is fulfilling that obligation. We cannot accept this.

There are a number of such families facing deportation. Parents are living in fear; children are anxious and depressed. We were pleased to see Jay Khadka from Nepal being allowed to stay, but we plead with the Government to find a new way of dealing with families with children born here. Perhaps a tribunal should be set up, and if such people have evaded immigration law they may have to pay a fine, or - better still - undertake community service. But let not the punishment so greatly outweigh the crime. And let us have this father back to join his children as soon as possible.

Rt Rev ROY WILLIAMSON

Bishop of Southwark

Rt Rev RICHARD HARRIES

Bishop of Oxford

Rt Rev ROGER SAINSBURY

Bishop of Barking

Rt Rev JOHN AUSTIN

Bishop of Aston

Rt Rev JOHN SENTAMU

Bishop of Stepney

Church Commission for Racial Justice

London SE1

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