6 March 2003 Edition

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Family devastated by uncaring government

Many TDs joined a picket of Leinster House, last Thursday, 27 February, to protest against the government policy of deportation of asylum seekers.

The picket, organised by Residents Against Racism, took place on the eve of the Elizabeth Onasanwo's case, which was to come before the High Court on Friday but was postponed until April owing to the illness of one of the legal team.

Elisabeth and her five children, all from Ogoniland in Nigeria, were attacked and burnt out of their home and forced to flee their native country. They have been living under the threat of deportation over the past year and a half. It has broken them.

Elizabeth herself is in psychiatric care, her little seven-year-old son has been taken into care. Two of her older sons are in need of care to enable them to face the situation. Her oldest son won a place in medical school and was then refused the right to take up the place because he is an asylum seeker without refugee status. Christina, who has turned 18 and faces a separate case for deportation, attempted suicide last February.

The family is Christian. If returned to Nigeria, their father's Muslim family will insist on practising the rite of female genital mutilation, which Elizabeth finds abhorrent. "Wherever we go in Nigeria, they will find us," she says. "It is a matter of family honour."

"This is just one case which our support group happened to hear about," says Rosanna Flynn, an organiser of Residents Against Racism, "but how many more are there who we don't know of? Elisabeth's lovely family has been devastated. Does this minister not accept that a well founded fear of bodily mutilation is grounds for granting refugee status?"

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