Monday, 12 July 2010

Let Florence and Precious stay!

It is rare that an asylum "case" has struck a chord with so many people. The case of Florence and her 10 year old daughter Precious Mhango has, and yet in spite of this, as ever, it's the asylum system that will have the last say, and today is a very critical day. Both the Lord Provost of Glasgow and the Scottish First Minister have taken the unprecedented step to interfere for the family to stay in Glasgow. So, if the Lord Provost, the Scottish Government and the Scottish people want them to stay, WTF does it look that they will be detained pending forcible deportation today?

A little bit of background: Florence and Precious arrived in the UK from Malawi with Florence's husband 7 years ago, on his student visa. The marriage broke up due to domestic violence. Father now has permanent leave to remain in the UK, mum and daughter don't. Had they stayed in the abusive relationship, they would both now have leave to remain in the UK too. But they didn't. They left an abusive relationship and are now being punished for it. Yesterday, their deadline for voluntary return to Malawi ran out. They did not return, because a return would mean that Precious will be taken from her mother by her father's family. It would also mean that the girl who spent most of her life in Glasgow would be made to live in a country where she neither speaks the language or know anyone, separated from her mother, as children are the property of the father's family in Malawi. Another serious concern is that Precious will be very likely to be forced to undergo female genital mutilation.

Part of the problem is that the asylum system is based on an antiquated view of what constituted persecution. It simply doesn't work well for women who are fleeing persecution, while it works reasonably well for those whose civil and political rights have been infringed. So if you're a politician (usually male) being persecuted for your views, you have a decent chance of being granted asylum. As a woman fleeing from domestic abuse, it's a different story altogether.

Florence Mhango's asylum case has come to an end. There is no further legal recourse. Once again, the asylum system has proven to be injust and has failed two people. The last chance for Florence and Precious is that of the compassionate intervention of the Home Secretary Theresa May. It angers me that it has to come to this, the asylum system shouldn't have to rely on compassionate decisions or interference from local and national governments that have no authority in immigration matters, but if the system doesn't deliver, this is what it has to be.

If you have some time to spare, please write to Theresa May and David Cameron asking them to allow Florence and Precious Mhango to stay in the UK. There is some time left, not much, but enough.

You can read the letter Glasgow's Lord Provost Bob Winter wrote here, and some more press coverage by the BBC, the Herald and Scotsman.



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