This beautiful little girl is called Precious. She is 10 years old and has lived in Glasgow since she was four. This is what she wrote when she was detained in Dungavel Dentention Centre by the immigration authorities.
"I couldn't stop thinking about my best friend ever Maria, I was going to miss her forever. I was so excited to go back to school and start primary 6 as the summer holiday was about to finish. I felt very upset for being disturbed from school because I knew I wouldn't be able to fulfill my dreams.
"How I wish I could go to high school then go to Cambridge or Oxford University. That's what I always dream about. I wished that I could change my mum's life after school.
"I started praying in my heart 'Please God, help me'."
Precious goes to school in Cranhill, where she excells and is very popular. Right now, however, she is held in Yarls Wood Detention Centre and will be forcibly sent to her parents' home country of Malwai by tomorrow (Monday 23 November) unless her deportation can be stopped on humanitarian grounds. Precious's estranged father is allegedly violent, yet he has been granted refugee status in the UK while the child and her mother have been refused. The law of Malawi gives rights over children to the father's family. Apparently Precious's paternal relations have staked their claim, so on return to Malawi she will be forcibly taken from her mother to live with strangers in a strange land. Her mother believes they will force her to undergo genital mutilation.
Anne McLaughlin, the MSP for Glasgow, has been campaigning for the girl and saw her in Dungavel at the weekend where she was absolutely petrified. Anne writes movingly in her IndyGal blog about the encounter here. You can also read more of Precious's own writing on Anne's blog, where I got the above extract.
I do not know the details of their asylum application. But I do know that a right to family life is legitimate grounds for staying in the UK as is the danger that a child will come to harm. This child is in danger of losing her mother and suffering the trauma of being separated from all the people who know and love her. Precious's entire world revolves around school and church in Cranhill where the mother and daughter have made friends and are active in the community.
It seems all these arguments have been rejected by the UK Border Agency. That leaves only the humanitarian one. Surely this terrified child deserves compassion? The UK government has until 7pm tomorrow to demonstrate that compassion. After that Precious will be lost.
This child's wellbeing should not be used as a political football. So if as many people as possible could email the immigration minister, Phil Woolas, without making points that are political or abusive, that could a difference. If enough people email, the civil servants might take notice and alert him.
It's best if you use your own words. Here's a draft for guidance.
email to firstname.lastname@example.org
Re: Florence and Precious Mhango
Dear Civil Servant,
I know that there will far too many emails for Mr Woolas to read personally. I would, however, urge you to make representation to him that there is an overwhelming concern in Scotland about the treatment of this child, who is currently in Yarlswood and faces deportation at 7pm on Monday November 23 2009. This little girl faces being separated from her mother on return to Malawi and given to her estranged father's family. She will not be educated there and will, in all likelihood, suffer genital mutilation. She has spent all her formative years in Glasgow where she is loved by many people. This is a child who deserves an opportunity to remain with her mother and adopted family and friends in the friendly city. Her violent father has leave to remain in London, yet mother and daughter are deemed too dangerous to live in Glasgow. Please, look beyond the rules and regulations and show some compassion to Precious before 7pm Monday.