Below is the text of an email sent last Friday at 2.26pm from Euan McColm, Political Editor of the News of the World, to Jim Murphy, Secretary of State for Scotland. He also used it as his column on Sunday. Please read it and pass it on to anyone who wants to know why we believe Precious Mhango should be allowed to stay in Scotland. When I say "we" I mean the campaigners across Scotland who are fighting for her and her mum, including 581 members of the Facebook group!
Dear Secretary of State,
How are you? I hope you and your family are all doing well and looking forward to Christmas.
I think you’ll remember we met this summer, out in Arden, the tough Glasgow scheme where you grew up. I was struck by how you described the way your upbringing had shaped your politics.
You spoke about your desire to make life better for some of society’s most disadvantaged people. And you know what? I believed – and still do - that you were sincere.
You told me how spending your teens in South Africa, where your black playmates were victims of the disgusting Apartheid regime, had further concentrated your mind.
I found your words eloquent and compelling.
And it’s with this in mind that I’m writing to you about Precious Mhango.
You may have heard about this 10-year-old girl. She was born in Malawi, into poverty, and at the age of three was brought to the UK by her parents.
She and her mum, Florence, came to the UK with her dad and Precious soon set about making new pals, first in England.
But life was still tough. Precious and Florence moved to the Cranhill area of Glasgow in December 2006, to get away from her dad, who had started mistreating them.
It was – you can imagine – a very traumatic time for a wee girl. But the great news is that Precious soon started to flourish. She’s a model pupil at St Maria Goretti Primary and a keen churchgoer. And she speaks with a Scottish accent.
But that counted for nothing last week when Precious and Florence were taken from their home in Scotland and sent to the Yarls Wood detention centre near London to await deportation.
The terrified pair were on a plane awaiting the return to Malawi when, at the last minute, QC Paul Chen, took up their case. He’s now fighting for their right to stay.
You may be interested to learn that Precious’s dad has already been given leave to remain in the UK – effectively, by breaking free from him, they have sacrificed their chance of a life here.
Do you know that the Home Office actually told Florence that since her ex-husband lives here, she and Precious would be at no risk of him in Malawi?
That seems terribly wrong to me. Are we really welcoming the right person?
You and I discussed Scottishness when we me last met. You argued that being Scottish was not about politics. You said that both you and First Minister Alex Salmond were equally patriotic Scots and I happily accepted that.
You said that Scottishness was about playing a part in the life of our great country and, again, I found that difficult to disagree with.
Well, Mr Murphy, I want to argue that Precious Mhango is a real Scot. She’s been playing a part in our country. She’s a success at school in a part of Glasgow often written off. She is, I think, the sort of person who good people got into politics to help.
If Precious is sent back to Malawi, her estranged father’s family will have a claim on her. There are genuine fears that, before long, she could fall victim to the barbaric practice of female circumcision. Although this is rare, Precious’s in-laws are said to believe in it.
I know, Secretary of State, that this is a difficult issue. The Government is right to be tightening up immigration procedures. This action must not only prevent bogus asylum claims, it must also make the procedure more efficient and humane for those seeking refuge.
I wonder if you might consider, on behalf of Scotland, raising this issue with your colleague, immigration minister Phil Woolas?
Surely we must know that deporting this little Scottish girl is the right thing to do before we do it?
I’d contend that being sent to Malawi will be as traumatic for Precious as it would for any other 10 year-old-child living in Cranhill.
SNP MSP Anne McLaughlin has been fighting for Precious and Florence. She’s a new MSP, but Anne has already started to build cross party support for this mother and daughter.
And the good people of Cranhill – the same sort of folk as the good people of Arden about whom you spoke so warmly – are rallying round, donating to legal funds and lobbying hard.
These people can only do so much. Your political career has taken you to the top. You know the system – and you have real power. I don’t expect you to abuse that power – but please think about using it.
Jim, this is not about politics. It’s not about policy. It’s about doing the right thing.
From one dad to another, I hope you can help.
With best wishes
PS-I have copied this email to readers of the News of the World.