A young woman is facing deportation to the Philippines, miles away from her partner and young daughter.
Cheryl Laws, who is 29, spends her days at Yarl’s Wood removal centre waiting to find out if she will be next. If her appeal to stay in the UK fails, her family say, she’ll be forced to move thousands of miles away from her 9-year-old daughter, a UK national who lives with her father in Kent. Cheryl, who was born in the Philippines, moved to Malta in 1998 where she met her now ex-husband, who’s British, and had her daughter, Jasmine. They moved to the UK in 2001 and eventually settled in Bournemouth where Cheryl worked as a nurse in a local hospital. Three years later the marriage ended, which is when Cheryl’s troubles began. She started using drugs, became addicted to cocaine and then moved on to dealing, heavily influenced by a new and negative relationship, says her boyfriend Daniel Brookes. In February 2008 Cheryl was convicted of conspiracy to supply a Class A drug and sentenced to five years in prison. This conviction means Cheryl now faces deportation to the Philippines.
‘She was a law-abiding citizen. Her life has been destroyed by the nine months she spent being dragged into a life of drugs. Cheryl did wrong, she knows this. No one’s arguing with this. She was convicted of a crime and has served two-and-a-half years of her sentence,’ says Daniel, who’s leading the fight against Cheryl’s deportation. He says she faces a double punishment simply for not being born in Britain and that as well as serving time in prison at HMP Send she now faces a further sentence: life without her daughter. ‘It will tear the family apart. Her daughter would be absolutely devastated. She’s the one who will suffer from the deportation along with me and my son who has also become close to Cheryl.’
‘She’s a fantastic woman who’s re-educated herself in prison, has a new career as a fitness trainer and has a good relationship with her daughter and me. Why are we being punished? It’s unfair that violent criminals are allowed back into society and she’s being removed when she’s no threat to anyone. She’s been rehabilitated, it makes no sense to send her away. Her life is here. She hasn’t lived in the Philippines for more than ten years.’ Daniel says their only hope is that Cheryl’s right to family life, embedded in the European Convention of Human Rights, will be recognised.
Cheryl was due to be deported on 6 November . A judicial review lodged by her lawyer means she remains in Yarl’s Wood for now. A bail hearing is due to take place on 16 November.
The deportation of foreign nationals with criminal convictions has increased significantly in the UK over the last four years. There were a record number of 5,400 deportations last year, up from 1,000 in 2005. The Home Office figures fall in line with a pledge made by Gordon Brown in 2007 that any foreign national convicted of a crime would ‘be deported from our country’.
Read about the what is happening to foreign national prisoners across Europe in the latest issue of the European Race Bulletin.