Author: Diane Taylor
A man who brought his baby niece to Britain in the back of his car from a French refugee camp after she sustained serious burns has had his deportation to Iraq halted for the second time in a week, minutes before the Home Office was due to put him on a flight.
Najat Ibrahim Ismail, 32, an Iraqi Kurd, is married to a British woman and has three young British children, including a 10-year-old son who has autism.
He was prosecuted for assisting unlawful immigration into an EU member state after bringing his niece Rwen Tahsin Ibrahim, then seven months old, and other family members to the UK in January 2016 in what he says was an attempt to save the baby’s life.
Ismail went to Grande-Synthe refugee camp in Dunkirk, where his brother Tahsin Ibrahim was staying with his family after fleeing from Islamic State in Iraq. He discovered the baby had sustained 50% burns after falling into an open fire in the camp.
His relatives travelled on false documents obtained in the camp and were granted refugee status after reaching the UK. Rwen received treatment in the UK and has made a good recovery.
Ismail was on the tarmac on Friday yards from the plane the Home Office had booked him on to, a Royal Jordanian flight from Heathrow scheduled to depart at 5.05pm. He was accompanied by six escorts and a doctor.
In an emergency court application on Friday, his lawyers argued that because a new expert report commissioned by the charity Medical Justice had deemed him unfit to fly due to concerns about his mental health, he should not be forced on to a plane until he underwent a full psychiatric assessment and the impact of his separation from his son was assessed by an independent social worker.
Jill Frances, a judge in the upper tier of the immigration tribunal, rejected the last-minute appeal. But just before he was due to board the plane, the Home Office said the deportation had been deferred again.
Ismail sent a text to his wife, Emma, from the airport, saying: “I love you so much. You and the kids are my world. Stay strong.”
After hearing the news of the delay, he said: “I’m so relieved. It was so close this time. I was waiting to be put on the plane and was just 100 yards away from it. All I want is to get back to my wife and kids.”
The Home Office is seeking to deport Ismail after he was convicted at Portsmouth crown court in relation to bringing his niece into the UK and sentenced to 24 months in jail.
The judge criticised him for the element of planning in the offence, but said: “I do accept that you were not a person who was trafficking for gain. These were family members you decided to assist.”
Ismail said: “Right from the start I admitted what I had done in bringing my brother’s baby to the UK to get her the medical treatment she needed. I did what I did to save the baby’s life and get her medical treatment. I have served a prison sentence for what I did and shouldn’t be punished again by being deported.”
Ismail arrived in the UK in 2004 after fleeing torture in Iraq. He was granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK and lives in Portsmouth.
His solicitor, Hannah Baynes of Duncan Lewis, said it was likely the Home Office would issue new removal directions soon, meaning the legal battle to keep Ismail in the UK would continue.
Under Home Office rules, any foreign national who has served a sentence of more than 12 months is automatically liable for deportation, although “compelling circumstances” are considered.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “All foreign nationals given a custodial sentence are considered for removal and we have removed nearly 47,000 foreign national offenders since 2010. The health and welfare of those in immigration detention is of the utmost importance, which is why we have trained medical staff on hand to provide medical care to those in detention.”
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