Campaigners gathered outside a Leeds court earlier this week to protest against the deportation of a Nigerian mother whose children face the threat of genital mutilation should they return to the African country.
Afusat Saliu, 31, fled Nigeria in 2011 to protect her two children, four-year-old Bassy and Rashidat, two, from the brutal practice of female genital mutilation (FGM) and to escape a forced marriage to a man 40 years her senior.
After being turned down for asylum status in 2012, she was once again turned away last month despite new evidence showing her children’s very real threat of FGM.
A group of protestors gathered outside the UKBA Waterside Court, Kirkstall Road, on 29th April, to show their support for the local mother.
Kate Jennings helped organise the event, by group ‘Leeds No Borders’, and explained how her friend, Afusat, is in ‘real danger’ should she be forced to go back to Nigeria.
“If she is deported back we fear that her children will have to face FGM,” she explained.
“What’s totally crazy about this situation is that the government is about to pass a law that says FGM is illegal in this country and that we should do everything in our power to protect people who face it.
“Yet, at the same time, they are here, trying to deport two children, whose risk is very evident that they would get cut should they go back.
“Afusat is such an active member of the Leeds community. She volunteers in loads of places and we are going to do everything we can to help her stay in the city.”
More than 110,000 people have now signed an online petition to keep Afusat’s family in the UK, whilst Leeds MP, George Mudie, has recently urged the Home Office minister, James Brokenshire, to review her case.
Roseline Akhalu, also from Nigeria but living in Leeds, came to the UK 10 years ago and said she did not understand why Afusat was not given permission to live in the country.
“We are so surprised to see that Afi and her children are still facing deportation,” she said. “We come here to survive, to escape persecution, so I do not know why they want to deport her.
“She is an FGM survivor herself and if she was to take her children back to Nigeria she would not be able to do anything to protect them.
“This country has a right to protect them and that is why we are here.”
The Leeds No Borders group were also protesting against the running of the country’s Yarl’s Woods Immigration Removal Centre which made headlines last month following the death of a detainee.
Ms Akhalu, who has also been detained twice at the premises, added: “There is no freedom there. You are treated like a cow. Immigrants and asylum seekers are treated like illegals in that place.
“The UN were recently banned from going in there so we are asking ‘what are they hiding?’ and are calling for an independent investigation to get it shut down.”
If you would like to show your support to keep Afusat Saliu and her two children in the country please visit change.org.