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West Yorkshire Playhouse has joined a fight to stop a mother from Leeds being deported with her children, who it is feared could be subjected to Female Genital Mutilation.
A letter, signed by officials from the Playhouse plus prominent figures from the arts ncluding Benjamin Zephaniah and Sir David Hare, calls on the Home Secretary to step in.
Afusat Saliu and her daughters were meant to be sent back to Nigeria last Thursday but are being held in a detention centre, with apparently no idea what will happen next. The Home Office declined to comment.
Here is their letter:
We the undersigned are calling on Theresa May to urgently review the asylum case of Afusat Saliu and her daughters.
Afusat and her daughters, Bassy, 4, and Rashidat, 2, are currently in a family removal centre, from where they could be deported at any time. This is despite a Judicial Review which is ongoing into their case.
We urge the Home Secretary to halt the deportation process and to consider the fresh and compelling evidence in her case. This includes the very real threat her daughters would be subjected to Female Genital Mutilation (as Afusat was as a child) if they are forcibly returned to Nigeria.
Afusat and her girls are a valued and integrated part of the community in Leeds; not least for being part of a refugee women’s choir at West Yorkshire Playhouse. They are not just a case or a problem, but a young woman and her children who are in fear for their lives.
We believe Afusat and her daughters deserve at the very least a fair hearing. The UK Government has rightly abhorred the abuse of human rights and violence against women and girls, just this week launching a campaign to end FGM.
The government says it "is absolutely committed to tackling and preventing this harmful practice in order to safeguard and protect all girls and women who may be at risk."
We believe it is time to put those principles into practice: Stop their deportation and give Afusat and her girls a fair trial.
Sir David Hare, playwright
Benjamin Zephaniah, poet and writer
Lemn Sissay, poet and writer
Tariq Ali, writer and filmmaker
Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, journalist and writer
James Brining, Artistic Director, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Sheena Wrigley, Chief Executive, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Alex Chisholm, Associate Director, West Yorkshire Playhouse
Lolita Chakrabhati, playwright
Natalia Kaliada, Co-Artistic Director, Belarus Free Theatre
Nikolai Khalezin, Co-Artistic Director, Belarus Free Theatre
Boff Whalley, Chumbawumba member and playwright
Rod Dixon, Artistic Director, Red Ladder Theatre Company
Dr. Daniel Bye, lecturer and theatremaker
Lucy Ellinson, theatremaker
Alan Lane, Artistic Director, Slung Low
Jon Spooner, Artistic Director, Unlimited Theatre
A lawyer representing a family facing deportation to Nigeria says they're being left in limbo by the Home Office.
Afusat Saliu fled to Leeds with her two young daughters, when a family-member threatened them with female genital mutilation - a procedure she has undergone herself.
They were supposed to be deported last Thursday but they were taken off a flight at the last minute. They've been held at Cedars detention centre since then.
Afusat's lawyer, Bhumika Parmar, says the Home Office have not yet provided any information about what they have planned for her client.
The Home Office says it does not routinely comment on individual cases.
A mother fighting deportation to Nigeria - where she believes her two young daughters face the threat of female genital mutilation - has been given a last-minute reprieve - but doesn't yet know for how long.
Afusat Saliu, herself a victim of the procedure, was taken off a flight out of Heathrow by the Home Office last night.
Now she and her daughters, who sought refuge in Leeds, are waiting in a detention centre to find out what happens next. Emma Wilkinson reports.
A Home Office spokeswoman would not confirm if the deportation of Afusat Saliu and her daughters to Nigeria has been delayed, saying it does not comment on individual cases.
Ms Saliu told ITV News she fears her two daughters, four-year-old Bassy and two-year-old Rashidat, will be subjected to female genital mutilation in her native Nigeria if they are deported.
Last night, Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson was flooded with more than a thousand tweets urging him personally to step in to block the flight.
He later tweeted:
Latest ITV News reports
A mother fears her daughters face female genital mutilation if they're sent to Nigeria. The Home Office says they'll be deported tonight
An asylum seeker in Leeds is fighting deportation. She fears her daughters could become victims of FGM in her native nigeria