Baroness Cox, Supports Open Letter To Protect Jasmine from FGM and allow her to stay in the UK

To: The Rt Hon Priti Patel MP, The Secretary of State for the Home Department

Baroness Cox said in the Guardian Newspaper: “Rather than digging its heels in over this case, the Home Office should use this opportunity to send a clear message to perpetrators that the UK does not tolerate FGM; that we will always champion the voice of the victim; and that we will do everything we can to ensure girls like Jasmine have the opportunity to make the most of their potential, without fear of being hurt by those closest to them.”
The letter published by the the Good Law Project alongside a petition launched on Friday.
We, the undersigned, write as concerned citizens in support of Jasmine (real name changed) and her family being granted refugee status to stay in the UK. Jasmine is age 11 and is at high risk of female genital mutilation (“FGM”) if she is returned to Bahrain or Sudan. Her story was featured in the Guardian on 3 July 2020 and it has roused significant public support.

Jasmine and her family are of Sudanese origin and hold only Bahraini citizenship. They have lived in the UK for almost 8 years. Jasmine’s mother applied for asylum in 2012 due to concerns that Jasmine would be cut if she was returned to Sudan or Bahrain. Her asylum claim was refused. The Immigration Courts are often unfriendly environments for vulnerable mothers and especially children who do not have the benefit of independent representation, for example, through a children’s guardian.

Jasmine is commended for her bravery in telling her teacher that she was worried about being removed from the UK. Jasmine’s school contacted Suffolk County Council who then applied for an FGM Protection Order in the Family Courts to protect Jasmine from FGM abroad. Suffolk County Council should be commended for their preventative actions in taking the case to Court.

After a court case that spanned over 12 months, Mr Justice Newton assessed the risk of FGM to Jasmine and found that “It is difficult to think of a clearer or more serious case where the risk to A [Jasmine] of FGM is so high. I find without hesitation overwhelmingly that there is a high risk of FGM to A [Jasmine]” (§52). The experts in the case gave their consistent opinion that Jasmine would suffer gravely if she was removed from the UK. Those experts included: a psychiatrist, a Professor in anthropology, the child’s social worker, an independent social worker and the children’s guardian who represented the child.

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?

FGM can have serious physical and mental health consequences which can be life changing. Long term risks include infections, paralysis of the bladder and infertility. This form of abuse also carries a risk of severe bleeding and even death. The family have first-hand experience of this after two of the mother’s sisters died as a result of being cut in Sudan. Jasmine’s three cousins were also cut. Jasmine’s mother was subject to Type III FGM, which is considered the most serious and physically invasive form of FGM. The mother does not support FGM but as a single mother she would not be able to protect Jasmine from FGM if they were removed from the UK. The mother would be financially reliant on her family members who want Jasmine to be cut. The mother is highly vulnerable; she has a “diagnosis of recurrent depression, anxiety and PTSD” and she suffered “adverse physical consequences of FGM”.

Jasmine’s case has been going on since August 2012. In the Family Court there have been around seven Court hearings. We would respectfully suggest that the public money spent on those seven hearings would be better spent on granting Jasmine and her family refugee status in the UK.

There is no need to use further public resources on this case. We call on you to grant Jasmine and her family refugee status without asking them to make another asylum claim. Jasmine’s mother has PTSD and has been in and out of courts for 8 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.

We call upon you, as Home Secretary, to show compassion and grant Jasmine and her family refugee status so that Jasmine can live safely in the UK without the risk of FGM.

To date, the open letter has been signed by over 300 MPs, Peers, campaigners, and lawyers. 

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