IN COURT AGAIN

Some of you will remember our ‘elective mute’ child, ‘Tila’, and her mother Serena who is from Burkina Faso. Serena was trafficked and then abandoned after Tila was born. Tila comes into my children’s church and great was the rejoicing when she started to say a word here and there.

Tila has now been assessed, and the medical opinion is that her behaviour is not autistic in origin. It is not genetic, and is therefore likely to be traumatic. Her mother has noticed that when they are in a room with unknown men, Tila, who is 4, will climb on her knee and go to sleep.

Serena has been appealing to stay in this country. She does not wish to return to her village in Burkina Faso where Tila will not have security or medical care. She has been to the court 4 times, twice before we met her. Last time Hub went with her, but was not happy with her lawyer. The Home Office argued the case, the judge ruled in Serena’s favour on human rights grounds, the HO had 14 days to appeal … and the appeal arrived on Day 13. So Serena had to re-appeal.

Since then, Hub has been busy. He has arranged for Serena to have some counselling from people who are experienced in helping trafficked women: and also to have Tila assessed. With medical reports in place, his own letter on her behalf, and some church members behind her, we all trooped down to the Court this morning for the Second Tier Appeal.

I took a bag of things with me for Tila to play with, and we waited for well over an hour. At last Serena’s case was called, and she went into court with Hub and her lawyer. This was to see if the court would hear the appeal or if they would close the case. If the judge was going to hear the appeal, the rest of us would go in and sit in a phalanx in her support.

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A few minutes later I saw Hub, Serena, Tila and the lawyer – a different one, and much more competent than the previous one – in the corridor. The body language was not good and I went to find out what was happening. The judge, a big cheese from London who was clearly not wanting to tangle with a complicated case, had said that Serena must find out if Tila’s father had British citizenship. If he did, then they would automatically be granted Right to Remain.

Come back (again) in 6 weeks, he said.

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Serena looked crushed. She has no idea where the father is – a Nigerian – and no wish to contact him again even if she knew. She does not think he has citizenship because he was always travelling – presumably making use of frequent visitors’ visas.

Her lawyer was more upbeat: he said that although it was disappointing, the delay may eventually work in her favour. He feels she has a strong case and is inclined to think it is a matter of time.

We all hugged Serena and encouraged her as best we could, then we came back here and had a cup of tea together and a pray. She was putting a brave face on it but I guess she might go home and weep.

At least she’s not alone.

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26 thoughts on “IN COURT AGAIN

  1. Oh how ghastly it is when courts just keep batting you back and stringing it all out etc…. It must just be awful for Serena and her daughter but they are very lucky to have you and the church community supporting them. I really really hope they can stay… seems so hard they have to go through all this court malarky when there are so many people who slip into the country and just get on with it…and are involved in criminal activity!:crazy: Seems inhuman to haggle about one lady and her clearly traumatised child :no:. Inhuman isn’t it?

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    1. It does, but as I said to people, judges can’t be emotional – their job is to interpret the law. It is very hard though, and Serena has such a strong faith and is always praying – she’s such an inspiration!

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      1. Amazing she can sustain her faith, on the one hand, and on the other…. how could she survive what is/has happened without it! Surely it must all come right in the end? I do hope so………

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  2. Poor woman. That’s a hell of a life she’s lead. Some people go through the system and are failed by it; others routinely cheat the system (ie “Sham Marriages” on Panorama) and get away with it.

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    1. It can indeed. Which is where the ‘big society’ should kick in – and people are saying the church is the obvious leader in that field, as we already have networks of both religious and secular leaders working together to tackle these problems. I hope ‘the church’ can step up to the mark!

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  3. Oh dear….I honestly do not know what to think about the current judicial position. I don’t have a enough knowledge to place myself in the judge’s thinking position. It does sound like delaying tactics, but then, the judge may be following the absolute letter of the law to cover the lack of judicial continuity and his interim judgement.

    The human cost is unquantifiable.

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    1. The judge said that the law is changing a lot on this issue at present, and a test case had recently been won in which the child’s father’s citizenship had been decisive. I think that he was hoping that, if this was true in our case, it would immediately and neatly solve the problem. However, it is very unlikely to be true, even if Serena knew where the child’s father now is.

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      1. I remember hearing about the issue of parental citizenship. I would have thought though, with the evidence available that Serena’s position would have been evident. Perhaps, the judge wanted it evidencing, again to cover all eventualities.

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  4. I am so sad to hear of this but glad she has got you to help her….what would she do otherwise?I will think of them as I go on with the day.It seems cruel to ask her to find the father,

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    1. yes, that’s what we thought, but I suppose judges can’t allow themselves to be emotional. I think if the father did have British citizenship then that would solve the whole problem immediately, they would be entitled to stay. But Serena is sure that he did not and knowing what I know, I am sure she’s right. Glad to have your thoughts, thanks.

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  5. It must be so frustrating for all concerned when its another 6 weeks waiting 🙄 and how on earth is Serena suppose to find the father an impossible task Im sure ..I hope and pray it all works out in the end for them …

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    1. Poor Serena is suffering from depression anyway, with all this uncertainty. I think that making people hang on and on for months and months is inhumane. She will not find the father but the lawyer did not seem to think that this will make much difference to the outcome, which he hopes will be positive.

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    1. yeah, thanks Pauline, so do we! Tila is doing well at school although she is still not talking. But she does say words now and I have known her say a phrase. At least she can get proper help here from a speech therapist.

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