Page last updated at 11:04 GMT, Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Asylum family held at Dungavel granted reprieve

Precious Mhango
Precious Mhango has lived in the UK since she was four

A 10-year-old asylum seeker and her mother who were due to be flown back to Malawi have been granted a reprieve.

Florence Mhango and daughter Precious were held at the Dungavel detention centre in South Lanarkshire before moving to Yarls Wood at the weekend.

They were removed from a flight at Heathrow on Monday night and taken to Yarls Wood pending fresh legal action.

Glasgow MSP Anne McLaughlin had written to the UK immigration minister to plead their case.

Locals in Cranhill, where they lived, had been campaigning for their release.

The mother and daughter, who have been in the UK for six years, were taken to Dungavel earlier this month after attending a routine immigration meeting.

SNP politician Ms McLaughlin wrote to the minister, Phil Woolas, urging him to release the family on humanitarian grounds.

She, and local people at the Cranhill community project where Florence Mhango worked as a volunteer, said they feared for the child's safety if she returned to Malawi.

I feel like I'm living in the darkness, I don't know when I'm going to see the light
Precious Mhango

The Mhangos learned of their last minute reprieve as they sat on a Kenyan Airways flight on the runway at Heathrow.

They were retuned to the Yarls Wood detention centre after a judicial review was lodged by Paul Chen QC.

Ms McLaughlin said: "I am delighted that the advocate Paul Chen QC was successful in his attempts to stop this flight and give Precious a chance to fight for the right to live in Scotland.

"There has been an outpouring of genuine concern for Florence and Precious from hundreds of ordinary people and the UK Border Agency has thankfully decided to allow them to stay while fresh arguments are brought before the court."

Dozens of other asylum seekers and members of the Cranhill Community Project had held a vigil for Florence and Precious.

Florence Mhango
Florence Mhango and her daughter live in the Cranhill area of Glasgow

Community development worker Sam Pearson said: "When we got the news that they had been allowed to stay a huge cheer went up."

"Their case has really united the local community. People have been out with petitions, putting up posters and campaigning on their behalf.

"Although this is good news we just all worry what will happen next."

The family have been held at Dungavel on a previous occasion and during her time there 10-year-old Precious wrote a short story about her experience, called Detention Day (D-Day).

One line read: "It's a horrible place. No friends, no good fun and no smiles from my mum."

On how she felt after being released she wrote: "Although I am out of detention I am so scared of the Home Office.

"I feel like I'm living in the darkness, I don't know when I'm going to see the light."

The UK Border Agency said the decision to detain a family before removal only happens as a "last resort".



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