Home Office's bid to detain asylum children in mosque raid

Arifa Akbar
Saturday 10 August 2002 00:00

The two children of a couple of illegal immigrants who were arrested in a mosque in a dawn raid last month are at the centre of a legal wrangle after they were also detained by the immigration services yesterday.

Farid Ahmadi, 33, and his 24-year-old wife Feriba, fled Afghanistan two years ago with their son Hadia, six, and daughter Seear, four, to escape the Taliban. They have been detained at Harmondsworth, in west London, since police forced their way into the Ghausia Jamia mosque at Lye, near Stourbridge, in the West Midlands.

Until yesterday, the children were staying with Soraya Walton, after they had been made wards of court. Last night, Ms Walton expressed her "shock and disgust" at the detention of the children, which was made while her partner, Paul Rowland, was accompanying them on a routine visit to meet their parents last night.

Pierre Makhlouf, an immigration lawyer for Mr and Mrs Ahmadi, said Mr Rowland was told the children would not be allowed to leave.

An urgent application was made to the High Court for the children to be released back into the care of Ms Walton and "the decision of the judge was for the children to be released immediately and returned to the woman who was caring for them,"he said.

However, the children are understood to have remained in the detention centre overnight after thev Home Office appealed against the judge's decision that they should be released. It is understood the Government is arguing that it's officials, rather than the courts, should make decisions in immigration cases.

Mr Makhlouf said the Home Office lawyers, the families lawyers and the High Court judge had held a conference call on the case until the early hours of today and were due to continue to discuss the case in a telephone conference call later today.

He said the parents were due to see a psychiatrist on Tuesday and the children were due to see a psychologist on the same day.

"I have made a request to the Home Office to delay removal pending a psychiatric assessment of the mother since the Secretary of State has not had the opportunity to consider expert medical evidence," he said.

"I'm only asking them to delay for a few days. They have proceeded behind our backs with taking action to remove the family."

A Home Office spokeswoman last night confirmed that "the children have been reunited with their parents" but refused to give details of any plans for deportation.

She added: "Although we cannot comment specifically on this case, regrettably it is sometimes necessary to detain families with children."

The Ahmadi family applied to live in Britain while at a German refugee camp and arrived in the country illegally by lorry a year ago, before their application had been processed. They were granted the right to stay temporarily in the West Midlands. Their solicitor, Ann Thompson, has made an application to the High Court to have the children released.

Beverley Hughes, the immigration minister, had last week commented on the Ahmadi case in a statement which stressed that, according to the Dublin Convention, when an asylum-seeker makes an application to another EU member country, such as the Ahmadis had to Germany, that country takes responsibility.

Mr Rowland said: "An officer who was not wearing the normal security uniform spoke to me to say the children were being detained ... the parents were hysterical with worry."

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