The story of Yashika Bageerathi has touched many. A bright student brought to the UK by her mother with her siblings to escape domestic violence at home in Mauritius, she has a promising future here if allowed to remain. Because she has turned 18 and is no longer a child, though, the Home Office has apparently separated her case from that of her mother and siblings and is trying to enforce her return independently.
I’m seeing some pretty odd reports on Twitter, though, so thought a bit of legal background might be useful. Basically, I can’t see how an airline can refuse to take someone who would be leaving voluntarily, albeit under huge pressure from the immigration authorities.
— Vincent McAviney (@VinnyITV) March 30, 2014
Originally, reports suggested she was detained at Yarl’s Wood detention centre and that her departure was to be enforced. A British Airways flight refused to take her, it is reported. It now seems that she is instead being asked to leave the UK. The BBC reports
She was given plane tickets by the Home Office and told to leave or “removal may be enforced”.
That sound a lot like the Family Returns Process, as it is known. This follows a sequence of encouraging a family with dependent children to depart (“assisted return”), if that fails requesting the family to leave and arranging a flight (“required return”) and if that fails then enforcing departure (“ensured return”).
While it is ultimately a velvet glove over an iron fist, the process is nevertheless a far more humane one than that of the previous Government. Dawn raids and long periods of immigration detention were previously used by default.
If the Family Returns Process is indeed being applied, or some sort of cobbled together simulacrum of it, it is a mystery why it was not being applied from the start and why it is still being applied to Ms Bageerathi alone. The process is supposed to apply to all families where there is a dependent child under the age of 18. Ms Bageerathi’s siblings both seem to meet this description and Ms Bageerathi seems to be part of the family unit as any normal human would understand that term. The Home Office policy certainly seems quite inclusive, applying to
“all families with a dependent child or children (aged under 18) where an adult family member is liable to be removed”
The policy also states that “Immigration Enforcement will seek to ensure that the family remain together” other than in certain narrow circumstances such as where there is disruptive behaviour.
The policy (p3) seems to recognise that “family” might be wider than parents and minor children, stating that:
It is for an individual to demonstrate that there are sufficiently close family ties and dependencies to constitute ‘family life’ within the meaning of Article 8. If this has not been established via an Article 8 application, or no such evidence is forthcoming and detention and removal is going ahead then there is no need to seek authority for a family separation.
Aside from the Home Office’s apparent misapplication of the concept of “family”, it would be interesting to know if the effect of Ms Bageerathi’s removal on her siblings has been assessed by the Home Office. It hardly seems consistent with their best interests and the Home Office duty to promote and safeguard the welfare of children to wrench the family apart.