Brian Christopher reports on the campaign to save student Yashika Bageerathi from deportation to Mauritius
As far back as 2011 Theresa May was threatening to scrap the Human Rights Act 1998, which incorporates the European Convention on Human Rights into UK law. The Human Rights Act protects the rights of people like Yashika Bageerathi, a sixth form student at our academy in North London.
Yashika came here in 2012 fleeing real and imminent danger. Today her mum, brother and sister stood outside the Home Office, surrounded by banner-waving sixth-form students armed with placards, drums, whistles and loud voices to demand that Theresa May release her.
Unbelievably, Yashika is in a detention centre, awaiting deportation to Mauritius. Her removal date is on Tuesday and the Home Office have been scandalously silent on whether they will even consider her right to an education and her family life.
Yashika is alone in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. Even though the High Court banned children from being detained in the centre teenagers are still imprisoned there. It’s led to riots, fires and hunger strikes by the detainees. The centre is run by Serco, who profit from schools as well as prisons.
She is at the heart of a great contradiction. The coalition government have ramped up anti-immigration rhetoric since day one. They have offered credibility to UKIP only to find themselves outflanked in the polls by Nigel Farage and his toxic nonsense. Cameron now finds himself pulled to the right on immigration yet again. His friends in the press run daily front pages attacking “immigrants” and saying we have been “invaded” by migrants.
And yet – we come to the contradiction – Yashika has enjoyed overwhelming support at so many turns. The petition launched by our school has quickly gained over 14000 signatures. At one point today, as we gathered on the platform of the train station outside the school, we watched the petition gain over 2000 signatures in a matter of minutes.
Everybody who hears Yashika’s story – the story of a girl in the middle of her A-levels who faces deportation – is shocked and horrified. She is going to be kicked out of this country simply because the Home Office has now decided she’s old enough to be separated from her family
The past few days has been a lesson in grass roots organisation. Teachers have lent a hand but this campaign was instigated, directed and powered by our students. It was a moment of immense pride and hope when they burst out of Westminster Tube station into the sunshine today chanting “Theresa May, hear us say, Yashika will be free today”. She must be freed and come back to us at school tomorrow. When I spoke to her today she told me she was still revising, determined to sit her exams.
The story of immigration in the press is divorced from the cruel reality faced by migrants in this country. Let’s agree that the next time we hear that awful mantra, “why can’t we have an open debate in this country about immigration?” we respond with “Yes – let’s talk about schoolgirls being imprisoned and families torn apart by people who want to literally scrap Human Rights”.
Please support the #FightForYashika campaign and sign the petition.
Tweet messages of support to @SaveYashika