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Home Office try again to deport West Belfast mum

Neighbours stand by Georgeline

By Gráinne Brinkley

AN African woman who fled to Belfast five years ago to save her children from persecution at the hands of hardline religious leaders in Nigeria has pleaded with the UK Home Office to reconsider her application for asylum.

Georgeline Iwuji-Nich and her children Melody (14), Favour (12) and Confidence (10) arrived in Belfast in February 2007 to escape from religious elders who had ordered the young girls to be subjected to the horrific ritual of female circumcision. In 2007 the Andersonstown News spoke to Georgeline about her fight to remain in West Belfast despite several asylum appeals rejecting her claim.

Five years on, Georgeline has set down firm roots in Brooke Drive in West Belfast. She has since given birth to a fourth child, Blessing (now four), and she’s an active volunteer in several local community groups. But the UK Home Office  claims that Georgeline has not “integrated” herself enough into her host community and has “exhausted” her appeal rights. The mother-of-four now faces the prospect of being retuned to her home country of Liberia from where she fled on two occasions after her father was assassinated and her family was subjected to violent attacks.

Local community groups and political representatives are now calling on the Home Office to reconsider Georgeline’s application for asylum, describing her as a much valued and much loved member of the West Belfast community in an area she has called home for the last five years

“The Home Office claim they see no evidence of integration here yet my children go to local schools and are involved in every activity that goes on in this neighbourhood,” said Georgeline, who has recently completed a degree in Business Studies at the University of Ulster.

“I volunteer in the Neighbourhood Watch, the Falls Women’s Centre and NICRAS (Northern Ireland Community of Refugees & Asylum Seekers).  Presently I’m a volunteer in St Michael’s parish church. We are part and parcel of this community so I don’t know what more evidence they need to see we are fully integrated here. We are actively involved in everything here.”

The Falls Women’s Centre has supported Georgeline and her children since they arrived in Belfast.

“We’ve been supporting her, going to solicitors, going to meetings with the Border Control Agency, and she’s also partaking in the classes at the centre,” said centre worker and Georgeline’s close friend, Briege Wright.

Another friend and neighbour, Upper Falls Sinn Féin Councillor Matt Garrett, said there’s evidence of Georgeline’s integration “everywhere you look”.

West Belfast MP Paul Maskey hit out at the Home Office’s Border Control Agency for its handling of Georgeline’s case saying there is no local accountability with them and he criticised their appeals procedure.

 

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