Six-year-old autistic boy deported from Ireland to Nigeria, despite protests|
DUBLIN, Ireland: A six-year-old autistic boy, Great Agbonlahor, has been deported from Ireland to Nigeria, where his family claim he will be treated like a "voodoo sibling."
Along with his twin sister, Melissa, and mother, Olivia, he was flown to London, en route to Lagos, on the night of August 14, after the family's last-minute legal challenge to halt their expulsion failed.
Ireland's High Court turned down their application for an injunction to defer their removal from the state.
Judge Garrett Sheehan refused to stop the Justice Minister Brian Lenihan carrying out the deportation and said he did not have sufficient evidence to overturn the original order.
The Agbonlahors received news of their deportation two hours after they turned up with their luggage to sign on at the Garda National Immigration Bureau on Burgh Quay.
Olivia Agbonlahor said she was devastated as she had no family in Nigeria and nowhere to live with her twins, who were born in Italy. Her husband still lives in Italy and may, ironically, be entitled to EU citizenship in the next two years.
She decided she would not renew her Italian residency and move to Ireland when her husband was subjected to death threats because he had written about a gang of Nigerian drug dealers.
Ms Agbonlahor and her children had lived in Clonakilty before moving to Killarney last year.
The Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service has arranged for one night's accommodation when she arrives in Lagos but she has to make her own arrangements after that.
"I really face a difficult situation," she said. "I have nowhere to go. There is no education for Great. The children don't know what is in store for them, as they haven't been to that country before. When you don't have a mother or father, how will you cope?
"I don't want to go back to Italy, because I know I'm not safe there."
Speaking after the decision, the family's visibly shaken solicitor, Kevin Brophy, said it was "absolutely horrific. Minister Lenihan wants the Agbonlahors out of the country so they don't cause him any further embarrassment."
He added: "I feel ashamed and embarrassed for this government that in this day and age, on humanitarian grounds, an autistic child can't stay in Ireland. Olivia has walked through the doors of the Immigration Bureau on two or three occasions not knowing whether she would come out again. It is absolutely unforgivable."
Town councillors in Clonakilty had openly backed their cause and passed a unanimous motion calling on the Justice Minister not to deport the family.
Campaigners for the family argue that Great, who has been receiving one-to-one treatment for his condition in Kerry, will be treated las though he is "possessed by the devil" and is in danger of being harmed in Nigeria.
The family sought an injunction restraining their imminent deportation on the grounds that the Minister had erred in law.
Conor Power, who appeared with Kevin Brophy for the family, argued that the judge had failed to grant them the benefit of EU regulations governing the handling of applications for refugee status.
Kevin Brophy is reportedly insisting that the family's legal case in Ireland is not closed. Murphy was quoted on August 16 as saying that the case would come back before the court on October 1, when a full hearing would take place in an effort to overturn the deportation.
Brophy will reportedly be arguing that the Agbonlahor family should be re-entered into the asylum process, because their original asylum application was made before Great was diagnosed with autism.
The family have argued that they should be allowed to stay in Ireland on the grounds that Great would be treated as an outcast in Nigeria because of his condition.
Brophy says he will also be arguing for a new form of legal protection called "subsidiary protection" for people who do not qualify as refugees, but who would be at risk of serious harm in their home country.
(Sources: Irish Independent, Belfast Telegraph, August 16, 2007)