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The New Arab Staff

Calls for UK to halt deportation of Sudanese child at risk of FGM

Jasmine, 11, was granted an FGM protection order but still faces deportation [Getty]

Date of publication: 14 July, 2020

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More than 300 lawyers, MPs and other prominent figures have signed a petition to see Jasmine, 11, stay in the UK.
UK Home Secretary Priti Patel is facing increasing calls to the halt the planned deportation of an 11-year-old Sudanese girl who lawyers say is at high risk of female genital mutilation (FGM).

More than 300 members of parliament, lawyers, campaigners and other prominent figures have signed an open letter calling on Patel to allow Jasmine, aged-11, to stay in the UK.

An online petition by the Good Law Project, the same organisation behind the letter, has so far gathered 13,565 signatures.

Jasmine, a Bahraini citizen of Sudanese origin, has lived in the UK for the past eight years.

Her mother is herself a victim of type 3 FGM - the most serious variation of the practice - applied for asylum, citing fears that Jasmine would face the brutal practice if returned to Sudan or Bahrain.

While their asylum claim was rejected, Jasmine was later granted an FGM protection order - a family court ruling that should prevent the 11-year-old from being deported to a location where she is deemed at risk of FGM.

A judge ruled that Jasmine would be at an extremely high risk of suffering the abusive practice if deported as while her mother oppose FGM her family support it.

Read more: For Sudan's women, the fight against FGM has only just begun

FGM can cause lifelong and serious physical and mental health issues and can even be deadly, with Jasmine's two aunts having died after being cut in Sudan.

"Jasmine's mother has PTSD and has been in and out of courts for eight years, she should not be put through the gruelling process of making a further application for asylum on behalf of her daughter. And Jasmine, at the age of 11, should not be compelled to make her own asylum claim, a daunting prospect for any child," reads the open letter signed by prominent lawmakers including former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and Ed Davey, acting leader of the Liberal Democrats.

"There is overwhelming evidence to support Jasmine being granted refugee status. In the case of Fornah in 2006, it was established that risk of FGM is a sufficient ground to grant refugee status. If this at-risk child is not granted refugee status, then what child would meet such a high test?"

Jasmine's case has drawn a considerable amount of support since first being publicised by The Guardian early this month, with an online petition garnering more than 13,000 signatures in less than five days.

Experts say Patel's Home Office has avoided granting Jasmine and her mother asylum in order to prevent the creation of a legal precedent.

"This case has been fought hard by the Home Office because it lives in terror that if it becomes too easy to flee FGM and get asylum, the UK will be flooded with applicants," said Helena Kennedy, barrister and member of the House of Lords.

"But every case should be decided on its own merit. It is very important our courts take a tough position on FGM, which is a form of torture," Kennedy told The Guardian.

Following the open letter's publication, the Home Office said Jasmine's family would be able to make further submissions for their asylum claim.

"Our lawyers are contacting their legal representatives to ensure they are clear about the next steps. Asylum cases such as this can be very complex and we always carefully and sensitively consider the welfare of the individuals involved," a spokesperson told The Guardian.

Last week, Sudan ratified a long-awaited law criminalising FGM. More than 80 percent of Sudanese women are thought to have undergone the practice.

Rights activists have warned the entrenched practice will be hard to uproot. Despite being outlawed in Egypt in 2008, FGM remains widespread, with around nine out of 10 women victims to the practice.

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