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Open letter sent to Home Secretary over asylum of 11-year-old girl at risk of FGM

Date:13 JUL 2020

More than 300 people who have signed an open letter to Priti Patel, the Home Secretary, urging her to grant asylum to an 11-year-old girl known as Jasmine who they state is at high risk of female genital mutilation (FGM) if she is returned to Bahrain or Sudan.

The 300 signees are comprised of Barristers, solicitors, campaigners, politicians and former judges.

The letter says that Jasmine and her family hold only Bahraini citizenship and are of Sudanese origin. They have lived in the UK for almost 8 years. Jasmine's mother applied for asylum in 2012 due to her fear that Jasmine would be subject to FGM if she was returned to Sudan or Bahrain. Her asylum claim was refused.

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The letter states that: "Jasmine is commended for her bravery in telling her teacher that she was worried about being removed from the UK. Jasmine’s school contacted Suffolk County Council who then applied for an FGM Protection Order in the Family Courts to protect Jasmine from FGM abroad. Suffolk County Council should be commended for their preventative actions in taking the case to Court. After a court case that spanned over 12 months, Mr Justice Newton assessed the risk of FGM to Jasmine and found that “It is difficult to think of a clearer or more serious case where the risk to A [Jasmine] of FGM is so high. I find without hesitation overwhelmingly that there is a high risk of FGM to A [Jasmine]” (§52). The experts in the case gave their consistent opinion that Jasmine would suffer gravely if she was removed from the UK. Those experts included: a psychiatrist, a Professor in anthropology, the child’s social worker, an independent social worker and the children’s guardian who represented the child. There is overwhelming evidence to support Jasmine being granted refugee status. In the case of Fornah in 2006, it was established that risk of FGM is a sufficient ground to grant refugee status. If this at-risk child is not granted refugee status, then what child would meet such a high test?"

FGM can have serious physical and mental health consequences which can be life changing. Long term risks include infections, paralysis of the bladder and infertility. This form of abuse also carries a risk of severe bleeding and even death. The family have first-hand experience of this after two of the mother’s sisters died as a result of being cut in Sudan. Jasmine’s three cousins were also cut. Jasmine’s mother was subject to Type III FGM, which is considered the most serious and physically invasive form of FGM. The mother does not support FGM but as a single mother she would not be able to protect Jasmine from FGM if they were removed from the UK. The mother would be financially reliant on her family members who want Jasmine to be cut. The mother is highly vulnerable; she has a “diagnosis of recurrent depression, anxiety and PTSD” and she suffered “adverse physical consequences of FGM”.

The letter can be read in full here, and the petition can be signed here.

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