This is the face of a mother, begging our government not to deport her teenage daughter from the country, on her own, into the hands of men who seek to do her harm. While this plea was made, her daughter – a promising student preparing for her A-Level exams, was jailed in Yarlswood Detention Centre.
Last night, against the pleas of this mother, fellow students and school officials, and more than 170,000 petition signatories, Yashika Bageerathi was deported.
How Did This Happen?
Yashika Bageerathi fled the island nation of Mauritius in 2012 after a family member threatened her with violence and sexual assault. The “fantastic student” has flourished at Oasis Hadley Academy in Enfield, was predicted to gain two A* and a B in her A-Levels, and had been accepted to study Maths at several of our top Universities. She had escaped serious danger and was now thriving, and likely to contribute great things to our society.
But this was not to be. Instead, she was snatched from her classroom, her friends and family and detained at Yarslwood Detention Centre. Because she was over 18, her asylum application was treated separately from her family.
While it is illegal for asylum seekers to find employment in this country while their applications are being processed, Serco are able to exploit the labour of Yarlswood detainees for just 50p an hour. While Yashika was behind bars at Yarlswood, another 40 year old female detainee died of a heart attack because staff offered her Paracetamol rather than call an ambulance when she reported chest pains.
In an interview with ITV News from Yarlswood, Yashika made an emotional personal plea to Immigration Minister James Brokenshire to let her stay to finish her A-levels, and also called on Home Secretary Theresa May to intervene on her behalf. The teenager and her family asked for just a few short months to allow the completion of her studies, and find a ‘safe place’ to go together in Mauritius.
Her mother made several television appeals and her family and school officials even attended the Home Affairs Select Committee to appeal on her behalf.
Her fellow students mounted protests on her behalf.
She even received a brief stay of deportation after British Airways refused to provide a plane to support her removal. But shortly after Air Mauritius stepped in to help the Home Office out.
But finally, after a High Court injunction against the deportation failed. The campaign was over.
At 9pm last night, Yashika was escorted by guards onto a plane, with no more than the clothes on her back – and flown to Mauritius. As a final insult, her family had their appeals for asylum rejected the same day.
Reaction to the Deportation
Yashika’s teacher Sarah Hamilton told Channel 4 News:
“We are outraged this has happened after Yashika’s mother and headteacher appeared before the Home Affairs Select Committee.” She clamied that the Home Office bought up rows of seats on the flight. And she said that Yashika was accompanied by five security guards who were “instructing her not to scream and not to listen to us when she called us”.
She added: “Yashika is emotionally drained and unable to fight further”.
Ms Hamilton, deputy head of sixth form at the Oasis Academy Hadley in north London, added: “We are obviously really distressed that the Home Office and the government think this is ok. There was a huge number She said that activists were mobilising immediately to try to stop the deportation. Lawyers for Yashika asked the High Court to grant her an interim period to stay in the UK to complete the exams she has spent two years studying for, but were turned down.
The #FightForYashika hash tag on twitter was used by hundreds of thousands of people attempting to express their disgust and shame at such a cruel decision.
Perhaps the most heartbreaking tweet came from the account representing her fellow students at the Oasis Hadley Academy 6th Form – who had received a painful and early lesson in let down by our government.
Home Affairs Select Committee Chair and Labour MP Keith Vaz wrote a letter to the Home Secretary stating:
“It is a hardship enough for this young woman to be separated from her family and returned to Mauritius where she claims she fears persecution,”
“To interrupt her education at this late stage in order to do so seems needlessly cruel.
“It is within your gift as Home Secretary to defer Yashika’s deportation and I strongly urge you to do so.”
As for the Home Office? A spokesman told the BBC:
“We consider every claim for asylum on its individual merits and in this case the applicant was not considered to be in need of protection.
“The case has gone through the proper legal process and our decision has been supported by the courts on five separate occasions.”
What Happens Now?
It cannot have escaped people’s attention that this removal took place the same night as Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg debated Nigel Farage – and likely forms part of the PR war of the government to look ‘tough on immigration’.
While these grubby party leaders have the man at the pub ranting about the number of Bulgarians on British shores, the government is free to continue its war on us all. The young, the old, the students, the working people, the jobless people, the disabled people, the physically or mentally ill people – anyone outside the 1% of people who are served well by the economic and social policies of this ‘government’. We are ruled by a cabal of self interested, self serving, corporate stooges that keep us divided with salacious appeals to our prejudices. If you think immigration is one of our biggest concerns right now, you fell for their lies. If you think UKIP are the alternative, you fell for their lies.
Like so much that this government does, deporting Yashika might well have been lawful, but it was not right. It’s easy to remain lawful when you have control of the laws – you just change them to suit your purposes.
From welfare cuts, to selling our public services at bargain basement prices to their mates, to fiddling their expenses, to passing increasingly authoritarian laws restricting our rights to strike or protest – this government is separating law from justice. At least ‘justice’ in the terms that you or I would understand it. I’ve had enough – haven’t you?
Don’t (just) get angry, get involved!
Join the Wave of Action on April 4th to call for fundamental change.