A NIGERIAN mother is hoping the Home Office will give her more time to stave off deportation as she fights to protect her children from the risk of female genital mutilation.
Graduate Afusat Saliu, 32, fled her home in Lagos and forced marriage to a violent husband 40 years her senior after learning of her family’s wish to impose the brutal procedure on her daughter.
Pregnant with a second child to the partner she met and fell in love with while studying for her degree in human resources, Afusat arrived alone in London in 2011 and was taken in by a women’s shelter.
The subsequent birth of her second baby was traumatic in light of Afusat’s own mutilation as a child at the consent of her family but, after a short convalescence, the Home Office still moved the family to Leeds, where Afusat continued her appeal for asylum.
Anj Handa of People Help People – which has been championing Afusat’s cause – says, despite the challenges of being a single mum of two, she has worked hard to integrate with the Leeds community, helping with fund-raising for her eldest daughter’s pre-school and volunteering her time to support women in similar circumstances.
Nevertheless, despite the risks she and her children face if forced to return to Nigeria, Afusat has been told she must leave the UK on Friday.
A petition in support of Afusat’s fight to stay has already been signed by 15,000 people and Leeds MPs George Mudie and Greg Mulholland have pledged to raise her case in Westminster.
But Ms Handa says supporters are pinning their hopes on the Home Office considering evidence which it has appears to have overlooked so far, including a similar case, also in Leeds, which may have set a legal precedent.
Afusat says she is terrified by the prospect of returning to Nigeria, knowing she will be homeless and there will be nothing she can do to protect her daughters.
“I am scared as I know what it‘s like and that, as a woman, you do not have a say,” she said. “My family told me I should not try to change things just like that.
“Leeds is my home now and my children have grown up here. It is very difficult for me knowing I may have to leave.”