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 suffered serious burns is facing deportation from the UK on Tuesday.
Najat Ibrahim Ismail, 35, an Iraqi Kurd with a British wife and three young British children, was prosecuted for trafficking after he brought 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 and his brother’s family were staying after fleeing Isis in Iraq, when he found out that the seven-month-old baby had been badly burned after falling into an open fire in the camp.
Rwen received treatment in the UK and has made a good recovery. The family members Ismail brought into the UK used false travel documents they had acquired from a smuggler in the camp.
Although the baby received hospital treatment in Dunkirk for her burns, her family feared she was at risk of life-threatening infection after being discharged because the conditions in the camp were insanitary.
Ismail’s brother Ibrahim was interviewed on 5 News about the incident, in which Rwen, who was crawling, fell into the fire and received serious burns to parts of her face and body.
“I couldn’t sleep for 10 days after I heard about the accident and saw those images of the baby bandaged up on the news,” said Ismail. “I kept thinking to myself: ‘My kids are living the dream in the UK.’ My brother’s kids are like my kids and I didn’t want to see them suffer. I was worried that after the baby received such terrible burns she might not survive.”
When Ismail arrived at Portsmouth ferry port with his relatives he was arrested. He was later charged and convicted of trafficking-related offences and sentenced to 24 months in jail.
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.
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 with his British wife, Emma, and their three young children.
He was convicted at Portsmouth crown court in relation to bringing his family members to the UK unlawfully.
The judge condemned 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.”
Speaking from Harmondsworth detention centre near Heathrow, Ismail said he was distraught at the prospect of being separated from his wife and children. He believes his life will be in danger if the Home Office forces him back to Iraq.
“I would rather die here than go back to Iraq,” he 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.”
Ismail’s solicitor, Hannah Baynes from Duncan Lewis, said: “We are very concerned that this very vulnerable victim of torture is currently in immigration detention, facing removal to Iraq tomorrow, where he fears persecution. We are doing all that we can to stop his removal tomorrow due to the Home Office’s failure to properly consider his claim to be a victim of torture and his serious risk of suicide when faced with the prospect of being removed to Iraq.”
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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