Deportation Of HIV-Positive Parents And Boy Halted By Last-Minute Hitch
A seven-year-old boy and his HIV-positive parents escaped deportation last night after a children’s charity warned the Home Office that it was effectively condemning the boy to death if it sent his family back to Malawi.
Martin Narey, chief executive of Barnardo’s, said Dumisani Lungu’s mother was so ill she could die within a week and his father, Brian Lungu, could soon follow, leaving him an orphan and likely to die in Malawi, one of the poorest countries in the world.
Speaking earlier yesterday, Dumisani’s mother, Caroline Manchinjili, said that if they were sent back, she and her husband would die from the lack of medical treatment for HIV/Aids and their son would be left alone. “In Malawi, there is death for people with HIV,” she said, from Yarls Wood immigration detention centre. “No one will look after us. Everyone will run away from us. This is just the end of our world.”
Last night Mr Narey, former head of the Prison Service, said: “We are relieved that Caroline and her family have not been deported tonight but the future of this traumatised and vulnerable family is still completely uncertain.” He said he would continue to fight for them to remain in the UK.
The family were taken from Yarls Wood late yesterday afternoon and were due to be deported last night. However, they were told an escort could not be found. A barrister representing the family will now lodge an application for permission to apply for a judicial review and this will be sent to the high court in London today. They came to the UK seeking asylum in 2005, but their case failed. Both parents are in the final stages of HIV/Aids-related illnesses and their son, who has so far tested negative, is feared to be HIV-positive because of his family history.
Mr Narey said that, while asylum tribunals took standards of medical care into account when considering whether to deport asylum seekers, HIV/Aids treatment in Malawi was so limited as to be non-existent. He said it was nonsense for the Home Office to say it could not make an exception in Dumisani’s case and said there were 20 similar cases in the UK.
“It’s quite wrong for the Home Office to say an exception cannot be made,” he said. “We should not send a child home to die. In this case, as in other cases we have seen with Malawi, they have said because treatment is available the family can be returned. We should just be very clear and the Home Office should be very clear: this seven-year-old boy will watch his mum and dad die and he will die because of that policy.”
The Home Office does not comment on specific cases. It said in a statement that serious medical conditions were taken into account when evaluating asylum claims, but that to allow exceptions would create inconsistencies. “We are not convinced that a special dispensation should be made for victims of HIV, as this could create inconsistencies in how we treat individuals with other serious illnesses,” the statement said.
Home Office guidance on asylum cases states that, while suffering from HIV/Aids is not in itself a bar to removal, Britain has an obligation under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights if there is evidence that, due to a complete absence of medical treatment in the country concerned, deportation would “significantly reduce” the applicant’s life expectancy. Article 3 outlaws torture or inhumane treatment.
Mr Narey said there were 20 or so children in the UK with HIV/Aids who are likely to face deportation to “countries like Malawi where death will follow”.
He added: “The clinician has told me, told the Home Office that Caroline – who has very serious epilepsy on top of HIV – may die within a week and very shortly after we will have a seven-year-old boy completely on his own and he will die.”