In 2014, People Help People led a high-profile campaign to help Afusat Saliu and and her two young girls with their asylum case on the grounds of the risk of Female Genital Mutilation on Afusat’s daughters if they were returned to Nigeria.
The public’s support to protect Afusat Saliu and her two daughters was incredible. The family were deported back to Nigeria on 2nd June, 2014. We fought right up to the last minute for them. Over 127,000 people signed my petition, enough to get the national media interested in the story. Thousands tweeted Virgin airlines boss Richard Branson and stopped the first scheduled deportation. We got MPs to speak out and even found a legal team to submit a Judicial Review. Many letters were sent to Theresa May, including one supported by the West Yorkshire Playhouse and around 20 directors, playwrights and performers. None of this would have been possible without the collective known as Team Afusat. So thank you.
Unfortunately, we were up against a tough system and the Home Office went ahead with the deportation.
I am proud of our campaign. We shone a light on the treatment of asylum seekers and wanted everyone to know Afusat’s story. How she was deported priot to Judicial Review and how on the first night of their detention, her daughters had to sleep on the floor. Then how they were kept in a removal centre for six days. And then, as they were about to board the flight to Lagos, how Afusat was handcuffed in front of her girls. They were escorted to Lagos by nine Home Office staff – three female and six male officers.
When they arrived in Nigeria, they were given just two nights in a hostel and a few hundred pounds to start a new life. They were not able to pack many clothes when they were detained and until we can ship them over, they virtually own just the clothes on their backs. The family was not assisted with accommodation and the People Help People team used its networks to find a place for them to call home.
We must keep telling Afusat’s story and all the stories like hers. It is the only way to start to change the way we treat asylum seekers.
We have shown that people will come together to support asylum seekers and by continuing to work together, we have helped Afusat and her daughters with the next part of their journey.
Once again, a heartfelt thank you.