Battle to save Congo family

12th August 2005 at 01:00
A teacher is leading a fight against the Home Office to ensure one of his students is not split from his mother because of new immigration laws.

Jason Travis, an English teacher at Mount St Joseph school in Bolton, Lancashire, took on the case after discovering Daniel Sukula, 15, could be taken into care - along with his five siblings - because his family's application for asylum was rejected.

Under new laws bought in by the Home Office last year, the Government is no longer obliged to support families denied asylum. But with local authorities still legally bound to care for children, Bolton council may be forced to take them into care.

The Sukula family, from the Democratic Republic of Congo, are among the first to be affected by the new legislation.

Mr Travis said they were now considering taking the case to the High Court after an appeal against the decision to stop their benefits failed.

Daniel's mother, Ngiedi, whose youngest child is five months old, says that she suffered brutal beatings at the hands of militia in the Congo before fleeing the country in 2001, and the family cannot return.

Their plight was highlighted by Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, earlier this year. He wrote to Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, pointing out the children's dedication to their studies and urging him to allow the family to stay.

The Sukulas were targeted as part of a Home Office pilot, being run in three areas in the north of England, which it is thought may affect more than 100 families in a similar position.

For the time being, Bolton council is providing accommodation for the Sukulas. But a spokesman said the Home Office was responsible for the final decision about them.

Council leaders from the areas where the pilot schemes have been set up this week wrote to Mr Clarke, who had planned to roll out the scheme nationally, asking that the project be immediately reviewed to avoid "any stress and suffering caused to children".

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