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From DisAbility To Deportation

June 23, 2008

Sheriff Chaw and his partner, Fatou Singateh, arrived in the UK from the Gambia in 2002 to study banking. When their daughter, Fatima, was born in 2004, she contracted meningitis a few weeks after her birth in Crawley, South London. As a result, her hearing was damaged. Doctors at Great Ormond Street Hospital replaced her inner ear with cochlear implants. Her hearing is now improving.

So far, so fantastic. So what’s the problem? The British government’s immigration laws!

 Chaw and Singateh applied for their student visas to be extended so that Fatima could recieve treatment for her hearing loss. However, their application was recently rejected by the Home Office. They now face deportation to the Gambia, where they say that the implants will quickly become useless. 

Naturally, the couple are very distressed at the possibility of Fatima losing the hearing that she has regained.

“If she goes back she will lose everything,” said her father, Sheriff Chaw. “[The implants] can fail at any time and if they do there is no way out for her … she will be stuck with these machines in her head that don’t work and there will be no one to help.”

The hearing aids cost £15,000 each. They need regular reprogramming and maintenence  to ensure that they function properly. Chaw says his daughter’s hearing and speech have improved dramatically since she recieved the implants after two operations in 2006.

“The implant is working very, very well now and she is happy,” said Chaw. “She can hear sounds and she is beginning to hear her voice and the words are coming bit by bit … like now she is saying daddy.”

Both Chaw and Singhateh said Fatima’s progress would be under threat if they  were forced to return to the Gambia.

“It’s disappointing because they have given her a chance and now they are taking it away – it will be a huge trauma for her to suddenly become deaf,” said Chaw. “She’s never been to the Gambia and doesn’t even know there is a chance that she could be taken away from all this.”

The couple plan to appeal, but they say they are not hopeful. “The trauma she will get when the implants stop working – I don’t think she will cope with it,” said Chaw. “This implant is for life and in that sort of region there is nothing like that. Even an ordinary hearing aid can be a problem to maintain.”

“There is nothing like counsellors, speech and hearing therapists or teachers who can help … she doesn’t know that her whole world could be about to collapse.”

The Home Office says that it does not comment on individual cases, but claims that: “We would not seek to remove anyone who has an application or review outstanding.”

I am deeply moved by this case. I am sure that deporting this family will lead them to a preventable tragedy. So, I am writing this post to ask you all to join the Facebook group that I have set up. Lets see what we can do to keep this innocent child and her family in England… and save her hearing.

Thanks for reading.

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