19 July 2010

Please Help Precious and Florence

Allow me to take your mind to three different places:

Think back to when you were 3 years of age. I suspect your memories are hazy at best - mine certainly are. Our lives only properly begin from the age of 4. From this age we begin to form our own autonomy, our own social networks, our own self identity.

Now jump forward to being 10 years old. It is incredible how much we develop in those 7 years. We now have a good understanding of our surroundings, our friends, our place in the world.

Lastly, I'm asking you to take yourself to somewhere much more difficult. Imagine, as a normal, 10 year old child, that this understanding of the world around you is suddenly removed. Your family, friends, teachers gone. Your home, your street, your community gone. Suddenly, you find yourself living in another world, in an alien environment, under the custody of strangers, unable to speak the same language as anyone else.

For me, this is too horrible to be imagined. But the government is acting to inflict this exact situation on a 10 year old girl.


Precious Mhango fled from Malawi 7 years ago came to the UK from Malawi with her parents after her father was granted asylum. Sadly, the father was abusive towards his wife, Florence, so she fled with her daughter to Glasgow, and settled there. Precious speaks English (with a Glaswegian accent), attends primary school and is an ordinary young girl.

However, since Florence andPrecious came to the UK as the family of a refugee, their legal status was tied to an abusive man. If they are deported, the family of the husband are highly likely to take custody of Precious. It is just plain wrong that a mother and her young girl's life can be shattered by the government because of the actions of her abusive husband/father.

Our asylum laws weren't designed to cope with situations like this, but instead of showing some compassionate common sense, the government is insisting on following the letter of the law - even when it clearly produces unjust outcomes. The Home Secretary has discretionary powers to grant leave to remain to Florence and Precious, and I urge you to take action and insist that this injustice is not allowed to happen.

What you can do:

Join the Facebook group.

If you live near Glasgow, attend the vigil being held at 5:30 this afternoon at the top of the Buchanan Street, near the Donald Dewar statue, at the bottom of the stairs outside the Buchanan Galleries.

Or simply blog about it, tweet about it, mention it to people you know, and tell them to mention it.

But please, just don't do nothing.

See also: Caron's Musings

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Sorry but Precious and her mother did not come to the UK as the family of a refugee and they have never claimed that.

There is also no evidence that the father of Precious was violent or abusive.

The reason why Precious has now been here for so long is that the last two or three years have been spent fighting the refusal of the leave to remain in the UK.

It is a failure of the immigration process that the Mhango family have been put through so much trauma.

Duncan Stott said...

"Sorry but Precious and her mother did not come to the UK as the family of a refugee and they have never claimed that." The father has refugee status. Refugees have a right to a family life, and therefore their family are allowed to enter the country. It seems highly likely that this was how Florence and Precious were initially granted leave to remain in the UK. How are you suggesting they entered?

"There is also no evidence that the father of Precious was violent or abusive." We know that Florence and Precious were helped by Women's Aid to leave London and head up to Glasgow. I doubt Women's Aid use their limited resources on cases where there isn't genuine need. I'd call that evidence.

"The reason why Precious has now been here for so long is that the last two or three years have been spent fighting the refusal of the leave to remain in the UK." They have right have the right to appeal. Courts make mistakes, both technically and morally, and it is right that people can challenge bad decisions. I'm sure you'd agree if you were ever wronged by the justice system.

"It is a failure of the immigration process that the Mhango family have been put through so much trauma." I agree, but for exactly the opposite reason. The asylum rules are far too narrowly drawn, and many people in genuine need are rejected and deported to a threat of persecution.

The biggest trauma in this case is not the stress caused by the threat of deportation (which I agree has been horrible for them), but the potential trauma of Precious being permanently separated in a foreign country she has no recollection of. Florence is obviously desperate to avoid this, and I just don't get why you don't feel the same way.

You are basically advocating the separation an innocent mother and daughter, Anonymous. Frankly, this makes you a wicked person.

Anonymous said...

Duncan,

You seem to know surprisingly little.

Florence Mhango entered the UK along with her husband who had a student visa. The asylum bit came along quite a while later.

They do have a right to a family life but have no family here apart from each other - so not much of a case there either.

Florence Mhango's claim of being abused again came along quite a while later. Strangely enough this was never reported to the police. Anyway this in this matter is irrelevant from an asylum claim point of view. They are both from Malawi and have not been persecuted there. That is why we grant asylum in the first place!

Courts and the judiciary do make mistakes yes but five times and five times failed....you are stretching things a bit.

You said 'the asylum rules are narrowly drawn'...I don't think so. In fact they are so wide they get manipulated and abused by people like the Mhango's whos recklessness put genuine asylum seekers in danger.

Knowhere has there been any evidence that the Mhangos would be separated in Malawi and this has been confirmed by several Malawians I have spoken to. The very same Malawians who are slightly put out by the constant demonisation of there country by the supporters of Precious and Florence.

This whole matter is now costing our country a fortune and the sooner they are removed or preferably comply with the law the better.

As for the personal comment regarding being 'wicked' you do not know me.

I do not know you either except you have got even the most simple and best known non-disputed facts re this particular case wrong.

Duncan Stott said...

Their right to a family life means not taking actions that would jeopardise having a daughter cared for by her mother. To my mind that is exactly what deporting Florence and Precious would risk.

It isn't strange that domestic violence wasn't reported to the police, indeed it is notoriously common. It is entirely relevant because her separation from her husband is what has made it necessary for her to claim asylum.

How can you attempt to argue that this case demonstrates the asylum rules are too lenient. They have been rejected! I also don't see how a "reckless" claim has any impact whatsoever on other claims. Asylum applications are taken on a case by case basis, and there is no "cap" on the number of refugees admitted per year.

I know it is common in some African cultures to use patrilineal marriages, where the father takes all children from the marriage as his 'property', usually on condition of paying the woman an appropriate amount money. It looks like both matilineal and patrilineal marriages are custom in Malawi, so it depends on which contract they entered, but it is a credible claim to suggest that the father's family will see it as their right to take custody of Precious. If you comment anonymously and expect any credence to be given to the "several Malawians [you] have spoken to", think again.

I agree it probably is costing the country a tidy sum. If the Home Secretary granted leave to remain, it would all be sorted. Florence has complied with the law at every stage.

Obviously I don't know you, but I stand by my statement that advocating the separation an innocent mother and daughter is wicked.

Anonymous said...

Duncan,

No evidence has been shown that the mother and child would be separated.

I could also argue that from time to time we must also respect other countries laws.

What made it necessary for the Mhangos to claim asylum was that they were denied further leave to remain in the UK from the Home Office. Then the asylum claim along with all the other tales started springing up.

The asylum process is without question being abused. We have a situation where the application(s) have been rejected no less than five times! When will the handful of Mhango supporters be happy? Has there to be six hearings, ten or twenty?

Illegal immigration (as opposed to asylum claimants) is a very hot political potato right now and most of the UK public would seem to hold the general view that it is being dealt with far too leniently. A tightening up of the rules due to false asylum claims may make a government leaving less leniency for borderline asylum claimants.

No evidence or proof has been shown that the fathers family will attempt to take custody of the daughter.

Florence is now not complying with law as she has refused to leave the UK. The system and process has now
been exhausted and the Mhangos should leave the UK or be removed.

Here is a quote from the Evening Times today.... "Florence and Precious – real name Tionge – entered Britain in May 2003 as dependants of Mrs Mhango’s husband, who was in the country on a student visa.

They had permission to remain until October 31, 2007, the same visa expiry date as the husband.

Mrs Mhango said he had been violent towards her in Malawi, but she hoped a new life in London would bring a change.

But she said the violence continued and she eventually fled to Glasgow to stay with a friend." Just fancy that....she travelled to the UK with her violent partner who still lives in the UK.

If I had a violent partner I would probably want to be as far away as possible!

Hopefully this sorry saga will be over very soon one way or the other.

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