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.
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.
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.