I've been blogging a little less recently because there's been so little time but for those of you who are following the developments with Florence and Precious Mhango, the latest update is that the Home Office lawyers have seen fit to apply for the Judicial Review to be expedited.
You can help by emailing Alan Johnson the Home Secretary at email@example.com and asking him to use his discretion to STOP the application for the case to be fast tracked.
As I understand it because there is an ongoing legal review, he cannot intervene in the actual decision about deportation. If the judgement of the eventual review goes against them he may be able to intervene then but not whilst it is ongoing. If any legal eagles out there want to correct me on that please do.
He can, however, use his discretion to call off the legal rottweilers and drop the application for the case to be fast tracked and that is what I'm asking him to do. This is my letter to him below. It explains the main arguments I believe we need to be using right now and will help anyone who wants to send their own email. It also explains exactly what the effect of this decision is and why they need your help URGENTLY.
Believe it or not I am quite hopeful that Alan Johnson will look favourably upon Florence and Precious. Call me naive but I don't think I am particularly. I think we can persuade him on this occasion. So let's try our best.
FAO Alan Johnson MP
Dear Mr Johnson
Florence and Precious (Tionge) Mhango
I am sure you will be aware of the above named mother and daughter who are constituents of mine in my capacity as a Member of the Scottish Parliament for Glasgow.
I am writing to appeal to you to use your discretion to help them after the latest development in their battle to stay in the UK where they have lived for six and a half of the daughter’s ten years.
I am seriously and genuinely concerned for their welfare on two counts. As there is a ten year old child involved in this I would hope that you would give my request equally serious and genuine consideration.
My first concern is the effect that continuing detention in Yarls Wood is having on them.
And my second, overriding concern, is the danger they will face if they are deported to Malawi as the Home Office seems determined to do.
What I am asking you to do, if you agree, will impact on both of those situations.
In a nutshell I am asking you to intervene to STOP the objections and application (for the case to be expedited) lodged by the Home Office lawyers with the High Court. As I understand it the application for the case to be expedited is due to be heard on Monday by a High Court judge. If granted, I would argue strongly that they are being denied the opportunity for justice.
As things stand, the Mhangos have (with the help of hundreds of members of the public) secured the services of a private advocate, Paul Chen QC. It was his intervention and successful application for a judicial review which resulted in them being taken off the flight to Malawi 51 minutes before it was due to take off on Monday 23rd November 2009.
Paul Chen has fresh evidence and new arguments but it takes time to develop those arguments fully and to gather in more detailed evidence. If the Home Office lawyers were being fair to this vulnerable family, they would have accepted the judicial review and allowed it to happen in the fullness of time – time that would allow that evidence and those arguments to be developed.
I believe it was incredibly unfair of the Home Office lawyers to raise objections to the review and to request the High Court to expedite it.
Mr Johnson, you are a powerful politician, you have it within your gift to help this family. All I am asking is that they are given a fair amount of time to gather in more detailed evidence. If you intervene to drop the application, I assume the next step would be that they would be released and allowed to come home to Glasgow to spend Christmas with their friends and neighbours who love and care for them.
That would at least allow this ten year old girl to be released from detention – I will save my wider arguments about detention of children for another day but you must be aware of the evidence about the damage this does to a child’s mental and physicial well being. If you require any information of how it’s affected this particular child I am more than happy to speak to you. Or speak to Precious herself – you will find that since the first detention in August, she now speaks in whispers but with some gentle encouragement she will eventually be able to tell you about the trauma she has suffered. If you allow the judicial review to happen in the natural course of time and release them back to Glasgow, you will make a huge difference to this little girl and her mother.
Secondly, if you intervene and drop the application, you will give their advocate and their supporters time to gather together the evidence required to give them the best possible chance of justice. Because this case has attracted some publicity, I am now receiving information from people in the UK and Malawi which backs up their arguments but you will understand that gathering in the detail takes time. That is all we are asking for – time.
I suspect an issue for the Home Office lawyers is that if they allow it to run its natural course, by the time the judicial review is heard they may well have hit the significant seven year mark. Can you tell me if this was a factor? If it was, do you think that is fair?
As you can imagine, being a Glasgow MSP, I am contacted by great numbers of asylum seekers. Although I am happy to work with them as constituents, I have never mounted a public campaign for any of them. This is a first for me and it is because I am so extremely concerned about this ten year old child and her mother, that I have taken these steps. I understand the arguments around deportation of asylum seekers are many, varied and complex.
However, please allow me to explain to you the single most significant reason (amongst the many others) why I believe we cannot allow this particular deportation to happen. Please bear in mind, this is not necessarily what the legal arguments will be, it is simply why I believe you should personally intervene and stop the objections.
Precious’ father’s family in Malawi have on several occasions approached Precious’ aunt and grandmother making it clear that they will claim Precious on return and that she will be living with them. They will not allow Precious to see her mother. I am no expert on the legal system in Malawi but the advice I have been given by those who are, is that the legal system will support the father’s family and there is every reason to believe that they could lose each other forever.
Now, regardless of all of the other fears, all of the other evidence and all of the other arguments, I do not believe that someone who came into politics to help vulnerable people and to make the world a better place, would knowingly turn their back on a ten year old child who has a very high chance of losing her mother (not to mention being thrown into a completely different way of life) as a result of their inaction.
So, now that you DO know about it, please do something. I assume because there is an ongoing judicial review, you are unable to use your discretion to grant them leave to remain. If I am wrong about that, I will write to you again to explain in more detail why I believe you should do so. Please advise me.
My understanding however is that the one thing you can do, as Home Secretary, is intervene to drop the objections and the application for the case to be expedited. It’s a simple request and I don’t believe it is asking too much for their advocate to have time to gather the evidence and develop the arguments. We are well aware that this will be their very last opportunity to successfully argue for leave to remain in the UK. Please, at least give them every chance to make those final arguments.
I understand the judge will hear the application for the case to be expedited on Monday. We are running out of time. Please act urgently.
Anne McLaughlin MSP