Schools pledge to protect three siblings from the threat of being forcibly returned to China. Adam James reports
TWO headteachers have vowed to deny police entry to their school to take away three pupils for deportation to China.
John Mayes and Dai Williams are fighting the planned deportation on November 15 of Miao Hong Su, 15, and her brothers Jing, 14, and Zhao, 11.
They claim the deportation would be both traumatising for the children and deprive Britain of three high-achieving pupils who, between them, have benefited from almost 15 years of schooling in this country.
"The children are due in school on the expected day of deportation and if the police try to remove them, I will not let them on the premises," said Mr Mayes, head of Astley high school in Tameside. Miao has been a pupil at the Greater Manchester school for five years and Jing for four.
Mr Williams, head of Lyndhurst primary where Zhao has been a pupil for four years, added: "I feel strongly that these children are going through emotional abuse. "If police come to arrest Zhao there will be an uproar and I will refuse them entry."
The heads, with the support of their staff, want the Home Office to prioritise the welfare of the pupils, irrespective of the rights and wrongs of their parents' objections to deportation.
The children's father, a chef at a Tameside restaurant, fled to the UK in 1989. He had helped students in the Tiananmen Square protest, and feared execution if he returned. He was later joined by his family.
But two-and-a-half years ago deportation proceedings began in earnest against the family.
And when, in October last year, Mr Mayes learnt deportation was probable he wrote to Home Secretary Jack Straw, outlining his concerns that deportation would be contrary to the educational and welfare interest of his pupils.
In September this year - 11 months after sending his letter - Mr Mayes received a rply stating deportation would be reviewed. However, within days, the family received a notice of deportation.
As November 15 approaches the headteachers and staff are continuing to send protest letters and faxes to the Home Secretary. "I just find it incredible that the bureaucracy in this country cannot understand the plight of these children," said Mr Mayes. "I would love Jack Straw to come to explain in an assembly full of their friends why these children have to go.
"Rather than facing deportation the family should be held up as a cause celebre of an ethnic-minority family who have gone through years of hardship, who have not relied on the state for financial support and who are well-liked and respected in the community."
The Hu family's lawyers are using the newly-introduced Human Rights Act, to prepare a last-ditch legal challenge to the deportation.
A Home Office spokesman said it was unlikely that immigration officials or the police would force entry into the school. Instead further avenues would be explored to win the family's consent.
A website dedicated to discussion of the growing impact of refugee communities in schools called Schools Against Deportation can be found at: www.irr.org.uksad
The Refugee Council estimates that there are around 69,000 asylum-seeking and refugee pupils in British schools.
Legally, asylum-seeking and refugee pupils have full rights to education.
Schools are increasingly launching campaigns against pupil deportations, according to the Institute for Race Relations.
A two-year campaign between 1996 and 1998 stopped the deportation of three Angolan pupils from Haggerston school for girls in Hackney, east London.
This February a 15-year-old Tanzanian asylum-seeker was allowed to remain in the UK indefinitely after staff from Rokeby school in Stratford, east London, staged a protest to prevent his deportation.