A campaign to save a mother and her two children from deportation has broadened its appeal by seeking support on an international scale and enlisting the help of Coronation Street actress Julie Hesmondhalgh.
Samina Altaf and her two children, Aqsa, 12 and Sumama, 6, fled their native Pakistan following incidences of domestic violence and sought refuge in the UK. They have since settled in Salford and the children have enrolled in local schools, but the family is now facing deportation.
The concern of anti-deportation protestors, fighting to prevent this imminent removal, has been exacerbated by the fact that Samina and her children are suffering from severe rickets and are currently undergoing medical treatment in the UK. Aqsa’s condition is particularly extreme and he has been described as ‘almost crippled’.
Yet despite the debilitating effects of this illness, the National Asylum Support Service, is threatening the family with eviction from their Salford home if they refuse to return ‘voluntarily’ to Pakistan. Protestors have been quick to highlight the inherent irony in an organisation that proclaims support for asylum seekers in its title, yet will apparently ‘blackmail’ a family into leaving the UK. By threatening to render the family homeless if they refuse to return of their own free will to Pakistan, where they have suffered domestic abuse and necessary the medical treatment may not be available or affordable, protestors argue that the family is being denied its basic human rights.
Steve Cohen, who is at the forefront of the Samina Altaf Campaign, told IRR News of the ‘obvious tensions’ created by settling asylum seekers in all-white communities, but spoke of the overwhelming support in the community for Samina and her family. The local youth club recently voiced its support by leafleting, whilst the Greater Manchester Coalition of the Disabled passed a resolution in support of the family at its Annual General Meeting last Saturday.
The campaign has organised a demonstration to be held on 29 January at Sumama’s school in Manchester. Mr Cohen anticipates that the presence of actress Julie Hesmondhalgh (Haley in ITV’s Coronation Street) will raise the profile of the case and will encourage more supporters to attend the rally. In addition, overseas supporters are being urged to write to their British Embassy or High Commission in an attempt to internationalise the campaign and to promote awareness of Samina’s case.