Home Office told girl, 5, she must leave UK while mother fights deportation to Nigeria

Exclusive: The mother, from Nigeria, has lived in the UK for 19 years since the age of 16

Holly Bancroft
Social Affairs Correspondent
Thursday 07 September 2023 16:26 BST
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The Home Office told a five-year-old girl she must leave the UK immediately but allowed her mother to stay while she fights her own deportation.

The mother, from Nigeria, has lived in the UK for 19 years since the age of 16 and applied for leave to remain in the UK permanently on the grounds she has built a network of friends and family here.

The application was refused but while she was allowed to stay in the country to challenge the decision, she was told her daughter, who was born here and has never visited Nigeria, must go.

In August, the Home Office wrote to the child’s case worker telling her: “You applied as a family member (child). Your application has been refused. You do not have a right to appeal this decision because your human rights claim has been certified as clearly unfounded. You must now leave the United Kingdom.”

The 35-year-old mother told The Independent: “When I heard it I started crying, saying this is bad. It is very very bad.”

She said she was despairing at the idea that her daughter might be made to leave the UK, saying: “Where would she go? Who would she stay with? I felt so bad about it. They can’t do that. It’s not safe.”

The only family member she is still in touch with in Nigeria is her elderly mother. But she is unwell with a leg injury that means she cannot move around, let alone help to look after a child, she said.

“I have no friends in Nigeria, there is nobody I know there. It’s here that I have friends and people to help me. If I went back I would feel very unsafe. I don’t know anyone there,” she repeated.

Moving her child to Nigeria would also disrupt her education, she added. “She’s doing very well at school here. Yesterday she got a gift of a Disney Frozen poster from her teacher for answering all of the questions in class. She’s very happy, doing well, is kind and she has lots of friends.”

The decision to remove the girl has now been temporarily reversed after it was challenged as “negligent, uncaring and counter-productive” by the mother’s case worker. The child has now been given the right to appeal the negative leave to remain decision.

The mother, who is based in Thurrock, is not legally allowed to work while she is waiting on her leave to remain immigration decision, but she hopes to one day train to become a childminder and work in the care sector.

She broke down crying telling The Independent about how she desperately wanted the opportunity to work to support her daughter. She said: “I just want to be able to work and get a salary to support myself and my daughter. I really need to be doing something. When I go out with my daughter and she wants something, I don’t have any money to buy it for her. She starts crying but I tell her that when I start working I will be able to get it for her.”

Applicants are entitled to leave to remain status in the UK if they have lived continuously in the country for 20 years or more.

Nick Beales, from charity Ramfel, which supported the mother’s case, said it was highly likely she would be granted permission to stay as she has been in the UK for so long. He added: “There is no public interest in making our client and her daughter wait idly for another year, housed at public expenses and with no right to work, when it is inevitable they will ultimately be allowed to remain in the UK.”

He said it was “shocking” that the government initially said his client’s daughter “must leave the UK immediately and could not even appeal the decision to remove her from her country of birth and residence”.

He continued: “Though this was corrected, this negligent, uncaring and counter-productive approach infects the decision-making process in long residence cases”.

In its rejection letter, the Home Office also falsely stated that the mother had spent the majority of her life in Nigeria when she has been in the UK for over 19 years.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We expect all visa applications to be carefully considered on their individual merits in accordance with the Immigration Rules.

“We apologise to the family for an administrative error and are in contact with them to make amendments.”

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