Asylum family thanks school

4th July 2003 at 01:00
YANNICK Malela is studying at City and Islington college and looking forward to a career in leisure and tourism after friends at a north London school rallied to help him fight deportation.

The 17-year-old was threatened with being sent back to the Democratic Republic of Congo two years ago. Now after an anxious wait, Yannick and his family have won permanent leave to stay in the UK.

Yannick's father Mfuti, arrived from his home in Kinshasa 11 years ago to escape police persecution and civil war. Accused of associating with an anti-government organisation he said that he feared for his life. His family followed him to London.

Richard Henley, head of Year 10 at Yannick's former school, Acland Burghley, in Camden, remembered the day the school got involved: "Yannick told his form teacher it was probably his last day, as he was being sent back. The family had been told to turn up at Heathrow that Sunday at 5am.

"That was it for us. It was so unfair. The Home Office website was warning people it was dangerous to go to the Congo. His class was really upset.

They wrote to their MPs, we helped the family get a lawyer."

Yannick's father Mfuti has expressed his gratitude to the school: "His teachers and classmates really supported and protected us. They were all brilliant. I don't know what we would have done otherwise."

Stories such as Yannick's are becoming all too familiar in schools and colleges which are becoming involved in trying to save refugee pupils from deportation.

At the College of North East London in Tottenham a quarter of the 16,000 students are asylum-seekers. The college offers immigration advice and tutors have created a committee to campaign on students' behalf.

The William Morris Academy in west London is challenging the Home Office in a bid to protect a number of pupils at imminent risk of deportation to Kosovo, Eritrea and Afghanistan (now termed "safe" places to return to by the Home Office).

Stephen Hull, head of Sowerby Bridge high school, near Halifax, condemned immigration officials earlier this year when two pupils were deported to Kosovo weeks before they were due to sit their GCSE exams.

The Institute of Race Relations has set up a Schools Against Deportations website to help teachers co-ordinate their campaigns. Spokesman Arun Kundnani said: "Now, very often, it's the school community that's taking the initiative in mobilising opinion to oppose deportations. We wanted to look at how deportation affects children, and their classmates. Suddenly, someone who has been a friend is wrenched out of the school community and sent somewhere frightening.

"Political pressure means the number of deportations is going up all the time, therefore the number of schools affected goes up too. Teachers are taking on this problem more and more."

Teachers oppose deportation targets, Letters, 22

The SchoolsAgainst Deportations website is at

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