Author: JOHN CHEEK
A CONGREGATION in Liverpool that ministers to the homeless and victims of human trafficking were concerned when a family were unexpectedly removed to the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre, in Bedford.
Wilson Mukerjee, a qualified solicitor, with his wife, Ruth, and son, Charles, aged 23, had fled Pakistan after “a family feud”. Eventually settling in Kensington, Liverpool, in 2014, after applying for asylum, they became an integral part of congregational life at All Saints’, besides volunteering for a foodbank, and for the charity Mencap. Charles Mukerjee suffers from acute epilepsy as well as learning difficulties.
On 4 April, the family went to register at the Home Office in Liverpool, as they did every two weeks, but were detained without warning by security officers, the chief executive of Mencap Liverpool, Sarah Jones, said.
“They were taken in a security van and driven to Yarl’s Wood, in only the clothes they were wearing, where they were detained in squalid conditions for five days. Charles had his medication taken away. They had no access to a sink in their cell, and had to share a filthy bathroom with other detainees. Their food and drink was served to them on dirty cups, plates, and trays.
“They were later given ‘uniforms’ which were ill-fitting. Charles was traumatised, and experienced several fits and panic attacks. It could take 30 minutes for medical assistance to arrive.”
On 10 April, the family were unexpectedly taken back to Liverpool. The MP for Liverpool Wavertree, Luciana Berger, together with All Saints’, continue to represent the family. The Mukerjees have now learned, however, that they have not been granted leave to remain in the UK, and face an uncertain future. Their access to services has been largely curtailed.
“It caused us an awful lot of worry”, the Associate Vicar of All Saints’ and the Rural Dean of Liverpool North, the Revd Phil Saltmarsh, said. “The touchstone of any ‘compassionate society’ is how it treats its most vulnerable people. People seeking asylum, people fleeing violence, people with serious health issues, as Charles has — to treat them like this is simply appalling, and the consequences of it are still going on.
“They were released from detention, and were in church again on the Sunday, where they spoke about their ordeal. Charles is still traumatised by it.”
He went on: “The family returned to their previous accommodation when they got back from Yarl’s Wood. Wilson has since been working with his solicitor, putting together an appeal case. However, because they aren’t allowed access to all sorts of public services now, they do not qualify for legal aid. All Saints’ is supporting them financially, with some of their legal costs.”
The family still have to register with the Home Office weekly, although Charles is exempt because his last visit was so traumatic for him.
The Home Office has stated that it is not its policy to comment on individual cases.