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 5 times, and in March a group of us from the church went with her for her hearing at a Second Tier Tribunal. The judge said that he wanted to know more about Tila’s father, and that Serena was to return to court later.
As this man has disappeared without trace, and apparently had a number of women and children (round here they talk about ‘baby-mothers’ and ‘baby-fathers’), Serena had no further evidence to bring. Another hearing was scheduled for this morning. I don’t know quite what they thought of us in the waiting room, when we stood around her to pray: but as there were both men’s and women’s (Muslim) prayer rooms but interestingly, no Christian worship space, we reckon we were within our spiritual rights!
Again we all trooped down. Again we waited for over an hour. Again the judge spent 3 minutes on the judgement. Interestingly, he apologised. He said that neither he as judge nor the Home Office had fulfilled the requirements of the law, as they had not taken little Tila’s well-being into consideration.
The case is now to go back to the Home Office, and start all over again.
It is very disappointing, but not as bad as we all feared, which is for her to be deported. Her life back in Burkina Faso will be untenable – as the Christian convert of a Muslim family, she may be in danger: and Tila’s muteness could well be interpreted by folks in her village as evidence of her possession by an evil spirit. It doesn’t bear thinking about.
So we all wait – again. First there will be a letter from the judge, putting his ruling in writing. Then eventually a letter will arrive from the Home Office with their decision. If this decision goes against Serena, she will still have the right to appeal.
It is not good news, but it is not bad either – and the Immigration Advisory Service had come up with a good barrister this time. We hope he will continue to handle her case.