- Jan 1, 2004
- Reaction score
- The Penny Arcade
One is Osama Bin Laden’s right-hand man in Europe, a “truly dangerous individual” wanted on terrorism charges in eight countries.
The other is a 10-year-old Glasgow schoolgirl who likes X Factor and playing with dogs. The UK Government is about to deport one of them – and it isn’t the al Qaeda man.
Palestinian Abu Qatada has been told he can’t be sent back to his native Jordan, even though authorities there have promised not to torture him. Such a move would, apparently, breach his human rights.
No, the foreign national the Home Office has in its sights is Precious Mhango, a little girl who has spent all but the first three years of her life in this country. She is being repatriated to Malawi with her mother Florence; to a country she can’t remember, where she doesn’t speak the language and where she is at real risk of genital mutilation.
Her crime? Precious is being deported because her mum, Florence, left an abusive husband.
The pair would have been allowed to stay in Britain if they had stuck with the man, who has leave to remain in the UK. They are only being thrown out because they were not prepared to put up with domestic violence.
The stories of Abu Qatada and Precious Mhango pretty much sum up how bizarre the UK’s asylum and immigration policies have become over recent years.
There are countless examples of criminals or even terrorists being told they can stay; and of deserving individuals being told they must go.
The system has got to be made fairer. At least that is what the UK’s new deputy prime minister said three years ago. Nick Clegg, then very much in opposition with little hope of ever gaining power, blasted the then Labour government on refugees.
“The attitude of a government towards asylum seekers reveals a great deal about its moral compass,” he said. “The issue is not whether a government is ‘tough’ enough on asylum seekers.
“It is whether we are able to separate justified pleas for asylum from unjustified claims, deal speedily and efficiently with those who are not justified and with compassion and humanity towards those who are.”
Clegg then attacked Labour for expanding its so-called “White List” – a group of countries that it would almost automatically refuse asylum from. Malawi was one of the new additions.
Last week Clegg moved to stop locking up children facing deportation. That may have kept Precious, who has had two periods of detention, from behind bars. Ironically, it may also have speeded up her removal.
Mr Clegg and Home Secretary Theresa May – a champion of the victims of domestic violence while in opposition – may now wish to consult their moral compass while thinking about some of the people allowed to stay in Britain while Precious goes.
Take Courtney Burry, a Jamaican-born paedophile now living close to two primary schools in Dumbarton.
To be fair, the Home Office would like to throw him out. But Burry has battled deportation for 12 years, with the costs of his numerous appeals and ongoing monitoring now believed to amount to £400,000.
Or Abu Hamza. Again, the authorities would like to strip the hook-handed preacher of hate of his British passport.
But, currently awaiting extradition to the US in Belmarsh prison, the Egyptian-born fundamentalist has, unlike Precious, been able to use the court system to keep himself safely in Britain. There are, of course, real legal and human rights concerns about sending men like Qatada and Hamza to other countries.
Can we believe, say, the Jordanians when they say they won’t torture Qatada – or use evidence against him from those who have been tortured?
But are these concerns really greater than those facing Precious?
It isn’t just that a 10-year-old brought up in Glasgow will not thrive in the country of her birth. She will almost certainly be split from her mum – Malawian custom dictates that the children of a marriage belong to the father. Moreover, her supporters argue that in Malawi her education will end and she will be married at 12. Is that not torture too?
Westminster, as Clegg said, wants to be seen to “get tough” on those it wants to turn out. Its victims have tended not to be the Abu Qatadas and Abu Hamzas of the world. And those falling foul of Britain’s rigour on immigration aren’t always from the kind of poverty-stricken nations associated with asylum.
American writer Thomas Legendre was forced to leave Edinburgh after failing to prove that, as a self-employed novelist, he earned enough money to support himself. He had to take up a job in England.
Another American, Angela Faye Smith, was last year told she had to leave her home in Arbroath – and her children – after she split from her husband. Smith eventually won her case, but only after horrific stress.
Anne McLaughlin, the Glasgow MSP leading the battle for Precious, yesterday said: “I don’t think people realise just how unfair our asylum system is. It needs to be fair and it needs to be seen to be fair.”
MP fights the case for Precious
Glasgow MP Margaret Curran has met with UK Borders Agency officers to discuss Florence and Precious’ case.
Last month, Ms Curran wrote to Home Secretary Theresa May asking her to grant them leave to remain in their Cranhill home.
However, after failing to receive a response, Ms Curran decided to arrange the meeting with UKBA officers.
The meeting took place last Friday, as it was decided that the pair were refused grounds to appeal the last court ruling that said the Home Office was justified to have them deported.
A spokeswoman for the Glasgow East MP said: “Margaret stressed the need for compassion to be shown given the years this mother and daughter have been in Glasgow, and that this is the city that Precious calls home.
“She also argued that all relevant circumstances must be taken into account, such as the domestic violence Florence previously suffered.”