Sheffield asylum seeker deportation halted – for now

Lemlem Hussien Abdu

People power in Sheffield has helped to delay the planned rapid deportation of an elderly and disabled asylum-seeker whose future now hinges on a meeting tomorrow, Tuesday 26 June.

The Home Office has agreed to halt action against Lemlem Hussein Abdu, 62, who was arrested last Tuesday when she visited the UK Border Agency at Vulcan House in Sheffield to begin a new asylum claim.

Lemlem originally sought asylum in the UK in 2007 but was refused, and after her arrest last week she was taken straight to Yarl’s Wood detention centre, ready for a flight to Ethiopia yesterday, Sunday 24 June. But a march and demonstration in Sheffield last week, addressed by both the Labour MP for Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield, and the city’s Liberal Democrat leader Shaffaq Mohammed, was followed by a temporary official change of heart.

Home Office minister Damian Green cancelled the Sunday flight and agreed to delay further action until after meeting in London tomorrow with Blomfield and the Bishop of Sheffield, Rt Rev Steven Croft. Blomfield said:

We will be highlighting the support that Lemlem has within Sheffield, and that her deportation would shame the UK.

Earlier he posted on the Lemlem Must Stay Facebook group page:

I’ve written to Theresa May seeking an urgent meeting and calling on her to halt the deportation. I’ve pointed out the huge support for Lemlem in Sheffield and that the decision to remove an elderly, disabled woman to a country where she does not speak the language, where she has never lived and to which she has no affiliation is a gross error [and] will be quite rightly viewed by many as scandalous.

Last week’s demonstration saw a procession to the UK Borders Agency at Vulcan House where a delegation met staff to put the case against the decision to deport Lemlem. A petition was also handed in, with over 1000 signatures asking for Lemlem to be given the right to remain in the UK.

A spokesperson for the agency said that the case had been considered carefully by the department and an immigration judge when Lemlem appealed against an original asylum refusal. He said:

Both concluded that this lady does not have grounds to remain in the United Kingdom.
The UK has a proud tradition of providing protection to those who genuinely need it, but those individuals with no right to be here must leave and if they choose not to, we will remove them.

Sheffield’s campaigners say that Lemlem, who left her home country of Eritrea in 1978, will be left destitute if she is sent to Ethiopia. She fled after her family was murdered during an attack by Ethiopian forces. Allegedly targeted due to their support for the Eritrean Liberation Front (ELF), which was fighting for independence from Ethiopia.

Gina Clayton, trustee of Sheffield’s City of Sanctuary said:

Lemlem is absolutely terrified to the core of being taken to Ethiopia. She has no family and no connections in that culture and no physical ability to work. She doesn’t speak the language and she probably would be reduced to begging. The chances are she would simply die of starvation.

There will be a vigil in London tomorrow morning, supported by friends and supporters of Lemlem and faith leaders from Sheffield.

About The Author

Multimedia Web & Video Journalist

I am a Multimedia Web and Video Journalist, enthusiastic mountain biker and lover of nature. I am passionate about communication and its power to improve a person's life. My dream is to expose injustice and give a voice to those who are largely ignored. I am the senior video journalist and director at multimedia production company Humbledinger, which I run with my husband, filmmaker Joe Bream. Joe and I spend our 'free' time making short documentaries and films that will give a voice to those who cannot speak for themselves.

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