As an A-level student is deported back to danger in Mauritius, many begin to question the government’s lack of compassion
On the night of Tuesday 1 April Yashika Bageerathi was deported back to Mauritius. A hard-fought campaign to try and persuade the home office to allow her to stay came to an end. She was set to complete her A-levels this year at Oasis Academy, Hadley in Enfield, at which I tutor.
The final legal challenge to the deportation saw lawyers push for an emergency injunction to the high court to block the deportation. However, Lord Justice Roberts did not grant this. Activists, fellow students and teachers had also been pressuring the home office in the hope they would intervene.
Yashika had originally claimed asylum in the UK with her mother and younger sister last summer, because of threats of physical abuse from her uncle. Although she claimed asylum with her family she was deported alone, something that would upset any 19 year old. The Home Office is not allowed to deport anyone within 3 months of exams, however as Yashika was considered an adult, this did not apply to her case. Lynne Dawes, Headteacher at Hadley points out “80% of students are over 18 when they take their A-levels” and highlights the need for a revision to the law.
Yashika’s time in Yarl's Wood detention centre was made more even traumatic by the death which took place over the weekend. When it came to her deportation Yashika was “denied food and escorted by 5 guards”, a source close to the campaign has said.
Yashika was due to sit her A-levels next month and had been working hard in preparation for these, she was on track to gain two A*’s and one B, while still finding time to help younger students with their studies. On Thursday she made a final plea to at least be able to sit her A-levels, that the hard work she did may not go to waste. Notably she had offers to study at top universities, all from Russell group institutions.
This case proves the argument made, all to often, by the right wing tabloids (that immigrants are all scroungers) to be entirely defunct. Owen Jones argues correctly that cases such as Yashika’s are key when attempting to win the argument that immigration is a positive thing for the UK.
Yashika's academy is exploring possibilities of her taking her A-levels in Mauritius, but the government have made no such commitments. It was Yashika's very dedicated pupils and teachers who headed up the public campaign to allow her to stay; they gained 175,000 signatures on a Change.org petition and won support from political parties across the political spectrum. It was their fantastic hard work and effort, which gave hope to Yashika.
The local Tory MP David Burrowes supported Yashika's case to stay and complete her A-levels and pressured immigration minister James Brokenshire. However, Mr Brokenshire’s response was to state that to intervene in the case would need ‘compelling and compassionate circumstances’. 175,000 signatures, wide public support and the risk of violence to Yashika in Mauritius somehow did not class as ‘compelling circumstances’. If Brokenshaw had been able to show some compassion in this case, Yashika may at the very least be able to have gained some qualifications, something the government would have us believe is a priority for them.
The recent attempt by the Home Office to put Yashika on a flight on her own on Mothers Day Sunday was further proof that the 'nasty party' has never left us. Thankfully, this outrageous move saw Yashika's students and teachers protest in Parliament Square, forcing the government to back down. Their 'plan B' was clearly to rush Yashika to Heathrow drawing as little attention as possible (she even had her phone confiscated from her). In response Air Mauritius found their phone lines jammed with phone calls demanding the air line refuse to let her on the flight, as BA had done previously... and Twitter was awash with protest tweets to the airline. Furthermore it is even rumoured the Home office had a private plane prepared had air Mauritius been unwilling to take her. This exposes the dirty tactics the Tory-led coalition are willing to use in order to hit immigration targets, which appease the right wing of their party and UKIP.
A toxic environment for asylum seeker
By putting Yashika on the flight the Home Office have put her life in danger and, as she said herself, now she is very alone. A Mauritian family, who heard about the campaign and offered Yashika a temporary place to stay is currently caring for her in Mauritius, a level of care unthinkable from our Tory government. One teacher heavily involved in the campaign has said that the case shows a “real desire to create a toxic environment for asylum seekers”, this is undoubtedly the case as there is a distinct lack of compassion throughout the asylum system. This may not be new to some people but it is rare to get such a clear example of this.
What can we learn from Yashika’s case? One of the most striking things is the Home Office’s astounding lack of compassion and their utter failure to empathise with someone who wants to make a positive contribution in this country. Yashika's case can also be used to refute the claim made by the right wing, that immigrants are lazy people who harm this country. Yashika made such a positive impact on our society that even the Daily Mail could not muster any criticism of her.
Yashika's case is another refutation of the kind of smear tactics applied to immigrants and asylum seekers, and the campaign to 'fight for Yashika' once again shows the wide gap between this government and the rest of society. With all that is said and written in the UK media about asylum seekers, Yashika's case is further proof that they are constantly dehumanized, and unfairly treated by the asylum system, which must be reformed to put people first.