A British-born boy who was blocked from returning to the UK after a holiday has been granted an emergency passport after being stranded in Brussels for four days.
Six-year-old Mohamed Bangoura was unable to reunite with his mother after he was prevented from boarding a flight from Zaventem airport to Manchester under Home Office orders on Sunday.
After The Independent revealed his plight on Tuesday, a number of politicians wrote to the department demanding to know why the child had not yet been flown home four days later.
Following intervention by the child’s MP, Labour’s Paul Blomfield, on Thursday, immigration minister Caroline Nokes said she would authorise the issue of emergency travel documents.
The Home Office said it would be in contact with the family in the next 24 hours to make arrangements for reuniting the mother and son. The Foreign Office is speaking to his family in Belgium to assist with the arrangements there.
Hawa Keita, Mohamed’s mother, told The Independent she was thrilled at the news that she would finally be reunited with her son.
“I am so happy. Oh my god. I just want to see my son. Now he can go back to school,” said the 29-year-old.
"Today I am the happiest mother in the world. The fact of knowing that I will see my son again gives me the joy of living.
"I hope that no mother will have to live through this kind of situation."
After speaking with Ms Nokes, Mr Blomfield said: “I’m grateful for [the minister’s] intervention. This should never have happened, but now Mohamed and his mother will be reunited without further delay.”
Critics branded the case “truly shocking” and said the act of blocking a UK-born child from returning home was “shameful” and “exactly one of the effects” of the government’s hostile environment policy.
Immigration lawyers meanwhile said the case highlighted a problem within UK nationality law: namely that being born in the UK does not automatically make a child British, and that a child’s father is defined as the husband of the mother at the time of birth.
After being blocked from boarding his flight, Mohamed had to stay with family friends in Brussels. His mother was unable to travel to see him because she doesn’t currently hold a passport.
Ms Keita, who is of Guinean origin and lives in Sheffield, said the situation had made her feel “dead inside”. She denied Home Office claims that she received a letter in March stating her son’s passport had been revoked.
The Home Office letter, which Ms Keita said she received for the first time by email on Sunday, states that the child’s claim to British citizenship was no longer valid because it had “come to light” that the man she was married to at the time of his birth was not settled in Britain.
But Ms Keita said that this man was her Guinea-based ex-husband whom she was in the process of divorcing. She explained that she had moved to the UK and was living with another partner; a British man and the father of Mohamed.
Speaking three days after her son was prevented from returning home, she said: “When my friend told me what had happened from the airport, I couldn’t believe it. I was very... dead inside. I can’t explain the feeling. It was very difficult.
I never received a letter. I called them about the problem on Sunday and they sent me it in an email. I’m not crazy enough to send my son out of the country when I know he doesn’t have a passport.”
Liberal Democrat MEPs Catherine Bearder and Sir Ed Davey sent a letter to the home secretary on Wednesday calling on him to act urgently to bring the child home.
“We feel it is imperative to get this child on a flight back to Manchester right away. His immigration status should be sorted when he is on home soil with his mother Hawa,” the letter stated.
“The lost sleep, lawyers fees and shed tears over this don’t matter right now. All that matters is that we get a frightened six-year-old back to his mother.”
Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott told The Independent it was “almost beyond belief” that the government would preside over a system which blocks a six-year-old born here from returning home.
Home Office spokesperson said on Tuesday night: “A letter was sent to Mohamed’s mother in March advising her that her son’s passport had been revoked. We understand that despite this Mohamed was taken out of the UK in July and last Sunday was unable to re-enter as he did not hold a valid passport.
“We will be in contact with the family in the next 24 hours to make arrangements for reuniting mother and son.”
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