5 year old Rafeeq Atanda (pictured above) and his mother Bola Fatunbi, were held on Wednesday night at the immigration center in London ahead on the scheduled deportation yesterday. Looks like they may even have been deported.
"Speaking from the centre, Bola told the Evening Chronicle: “I feel safe in Gateshead, but we have no one in Nigeria. Rafeeq was born here, he goes to school here and is doing well, it is so very hard for us. There are so many kidnappings and frightening things with Boko Haram happening in Nigeria, it would not be safe.”
Fighting back tears, Bola, 30, told how she had first come to the UK following the death of her parents and brothers and sisters in a car tragedy in Nigeria in 1997.
She said: “It was so hard but I thought I’d have a better life here and we have made a lot of friends in Gateshead.”
Gateshead MP Ian Mearns has now asked the Home Office to urgently reconsider their decision to deport the little boy.
Despite being born in this country, Rafeeq faces being removed from the UK with Bola. The Chronicle understand Mr Mearns contacted the Home Office on Wednesday, requesting a barrier be placed on the planned deportation, citing concerns over Rafeeq’s health.
He received a response stating: “We are aware of the health issues regarding this family and have been working with various services to ensure the family’s needs are met during removal.
“It is considered there are no grounds to place a barrier on this removal at this time.”
Now, Mr Mearns is asking for an “urgent reconsideration of the case”.
He said: “I understand that the family are desperately trying to put together the evidence to submit a fresh application to remain. Surely time should be given for that application to be made and considered.”
More than 5,500 people have now added their names to a petition launched earlier this week asking for the Government to reconsider deporting the little boy.
Family friend Kath Hayward, who started the petition, said: “We’ve had so many people sign up since Wednesday. We are only hoping this will now do some good.
“We would urge more people to get involved. We have heard from Bola’s solicitor and everything that can be done to help, is now being done.”
Rafeeq has established himself as a popular pupil with a lot of friends, but their lives were turned upside down on Monday when the pair were removed from their home, taken to an immigration holding centre, and told they would be deported back to Nigeria.
Bola said: “We just got taken and put into a car. We were not allowed to take any of our possessions.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “Bola Fatumbi was first told in 2007 that she had no right to be in the UK. Later that year she was jailed for nine months for possession of a false document, which she used to illegally obtain employment in the UK.
“She subsequently applied for asylum. This claim was refused, the decision backed up by an independent judge who found her claims not to be credible.
“Every claim is carefully considered and where there is a genuine need of protection asylum will be granted.
“We provide help and support to those found not to have the right to remain in the UK in returning to their own country. If they refuse to engage with this process we will enforce removal."