Home Office to deport Jamaican mother after ten years in UK
The Guardian, Owen Bowcott
A hunger striker who protested at the treatment of immigration detainees in Yarl's Wood detention centre is due to be deported to Jamaica today.
Denise McNeil, who has lived in Britain for 10 years, will be put on a plane without her eight-year-old son, Tre-Anri. The Home Office says she is being removed because of past criminal convictions and has urged her family to accompany her to the Caribbean.
McNeil gave an account to the Guardian earlier this year about her time on hunger strike in protest against conditions for families in Yarl's Wood. She said she fled to the UK in 2000 after her brother and sister were killed in gang warfare in Jamaica. She is currently in Holloway prison.
Her fight to remain in Britain has been supported by the Stop Deportations network. McNeil has failed in the courts to win her battle for the right to asylum.
"Despite [the government's] promises to improve treatment of children in the immigration system, the Home Office intends to deport her leaving her eight-year-old son behind in London: a clear violation of the right to a family life," a spokeswoman for the Stop Deportations network said.
Anne-Marie O'Reilly, a member of the group who has visited Denise regularly since she was moved to Holloway prison, said: "When I visit Denise with Tre-Anri, he sits on her lap and they talk non-stop until the visit is over. It is traumatic enough to separate them at the end of the visit; it is inhuman that the Home Office wants to deport Denise thousands of miles away where her life would be in danger."
But David Wood, the UK Border Agency's strategic director for criminality and detention, said: "We only return those who both the UK Border Agency and the courts are satisfied do not need our protection and who refuse to leave voluntarily.
"An immigration judge has found that 'there appears to be no reason why this family cannot relocate to Jamaica' and concluded that this 'would not result in a breach of human rights'.
"Ms McNeil has been separated from her youngest child who resides with a relative since she was sent to prison. She has refused to co-operate with attempts to enable her younger child to return to Jamaica with her."
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