Colin Firth urges Home Office to ‘let matters rest’ for transplant patient Roseline Akhalu
Roseline Akhalu, a Nigerian transplant patient who would die within weeks if she were deported, has won her second appeal against the UK Border Agency and is allowed to stay in the UK. Akhalu’s story was reported by Unheard Voices with this documentary in May 2013.
Akhalu, a Nigerian university graduate, came to the UK in 2004 on a prestigious scholarship to do an MA at Leeds University. During her studies she was diagnosed with kidney failure and began over four years of treatment.
In 2009, she had a successful kidney transplant but needs immunosuppressant drugs for the rest of her life, something her doctors and legal team argue she could not afford if she is sent back to Nigeria.
An ‘exceptional’ case
Akhalu, won her first appeal against the UKBA’s rejection of her claim for leave to remain in November 2012. However, despite accepting that she would die within weeks if returned to Nigeria, the Home Secretary Theresa May lodged a further appeal in May 2013 against the decision to allow Akhalu the right to remain in the UK. May claimed that Akhalu’s treatment was the responsibility of the Nigerian government.
On Friday July 19 the High Court announced that they had rejected this appeal, stating that the circumstance of Akhalu’s case were “exceptional” and that she had won the right to remain in the UK.
Judge Southern on behalf of the Upper Tribunal in rejecting the Home Office’s appeal said:
“We are satisfied that the [original] judge did not make an error of law…the circumstances here were, if not truly unique, so exceptional as to stand out from the ordinary run of cases where a claimant complains of being disadvantaged by a comparative lack of medical care in his or her own country. That was not the basis of the decision here”.
On hearing news of the judgment Akhalu told her friends and supporters:
“Thank you everybody for the support, for the prayers, for the publicity, for everything. Hopefully the UKBA will let matters rest at this stage.”
The Home Office still has the option of taking the case to the Supreme Court. A Home Office spokesperson said:
“We are currently considering the determination of the Upper Tribunal and deciding whether to seek leave to appeal the decision.”
‘Enough is enough’
A five-year long campaign for Akhalu to remain in the UK, based in North Leeds where she lives, has been supported by local politicians, church leaders and the Oscar-winning actor Colin Firth. Almost 2,000 people have signed an online petition asking for Akhalu to be allowed to live.
Colin Firth said he was delighted and relieved:
“I join Rose’s friends and supporters in expressing delight and relief at what we hope will be an end to her ordeal. We hope the Home Office will now accept the decision of the courts, respect the wishes of her community and let the matter rest.”
Greg Mulholland, Liberal Democrat MP for Leeds North West said he is “again” writing to Theresa May to urge her to stop pursuing Akhalu’s case. He will also be asking how many resources have been devoted to Akhalu’s case over the six years they have been trying to deport her. Mulholland said:
“Roseline is a valued member of our community and I am delighted that she has won her appeal against the UK Border Agency. I urge the Home Minister to stop pursuing this case. Enough is enough. The UK Border Agency must stop this cruel and costly action and let Roseline stay.”
Tessa Gregory, Akahlu’s solicitor, said she was delighted with the ruling and asked the Home Secretary to accept the decision and not waste money on further legal action:
“The facts of Rose’s case are exceptional and have been rightly recognised as such. It must now be time for the Home Secretary to accept that it would be unlawful to deport Rose to a certain and lonely death in Nigeria.
“No more money should be wasted on further appeals and Rose should be allowed to get on with her life within the community that has given her such incredible support throughout this ordeal.”
Esme Madill on behalf of the Save Rose Campaign declared:
“We are overjoyed with today’s judgment. Roseline has had to endure months of needless worry and anxiety because of this groundless and expensive appeal by the Home Secretary, which has aggravated Rose’s fragile health condition.
We really hope that the Home Office now has the sense to admit defeat so that Rose can get on with her life and continue contributing to her community as she has been doing for so many years.”