Leah Gonzales has been in the UK since she was a child, she has grown up in the UK, attended school and college and has countless family members here including two children. Despite this the Home Office plan to deport her tomorrow via Virgin Atlantic flight VS29. They plan to fly Leah to Bridgetown, where she will then take another flight to Trinidad and Tobago. The Home Office will attempt to forcibly remove Leah, despite her having serious reasons for fearing persecution in Trinidad.
We successfully fought with Leah against removal in November 2015. She did not fly, but instead of allowing Leah the opportunity to detail her reasons for fearing persecution, the Home Office still have not given her an asylum interview. They also then sickeningly transferred her straight back to prison. In prison Leah cannot easily communicate with those close to her, including her lawyer. Gathering the required evidence to fight removal has been impossible and her detention inside a prison, with no sentence nor time limit, is arguably unlawful as she is so vulnerable.
The Home Office maintain that Leah doesn’t need to be interviewed, because she had the opportunity to present her side of things at appeal – they conveniently ignore the fact that she was not present at her appeal, as the Home Office never notified her of it! They also consistently ignore that she is a survivor of rape and other serious physical abuse and sexual violence.
While detained, Leah has been beaten by guards on numerous occasions. She currently has an official complaint pending as a result of treatment at Yarl’s Wood.
Leah’s family are extremely concerned about what could happen if she is forced to go to Trinidad. There is no family for her to stay with and she suffers from paranoid schizophrenia and numerous other mental health concerns. She is expected to go to a country she barely remembers and find a way to survive. In addition the memories Leah does have of Trinidad are filled with abandonment and sexual abuse. She fully believes that the perpetrators will find her as they were gang related attacks.
Until this time Leah has not spoken out about her past. Since being detained she has been faced with confronting and accepting these horrific acts from her childhood. The Home Office have clear guidelines regarding survivors of rape and torture, however, these have been ignored to the extent that they will not even allow an asylum interview to take place. Instead they have simply pursued travel documents and forced Leah into signing paperwork to ensure her removal. This included threatening her with imprisonment if she did not comply.
Legal representation has been non-existent because Leah has been moved so regularly whilst detained. While in Yarl’s Wood she had an English lawyer who could not represent her once she was moved to Dungavel in Scotland. Then once again she was moved back, swiftly taken to prison and put in solitary confinement where access to legal representation as well as family, friends and supporters was impossible. Lawyers have said today they want to challenge her removal, yet there is not enough time.
Leah’s treatment reveals the complete disregard the UK Home Office and detention centre staff have for individuals and their legal rights. If this removal goes ahead it will be a complete violation and will put Leah at certain risk. Leah and her family identify as British, her children are British and she deserves to remain in the UK where she is safe.
Take action now to contact Virgin Atlantic and explain why Leah cannot be put on their flight tomorrow at 11:00am from London Gatwick Flight Number VS29.
Please quote her full name and Home Office Reference (Leah Rebecca Andrea Gonzales HO ref: G1168052) when speaking to the airline. All you need to do is explain that the pilot on any aircraft has the power to refuse to carry any passenger. Let staff know to pass this urgent information onto the pilot and request that the airline reconsider their compliance with the HO’s immigration agenda. Any amount of profit is not worth risking individuals’ lives.
VIRGIN ATLANTIC CONTACT DETAILS
Virgin Headquarters 0344 8110 000
Reservations 0344 209 7777 – (Open 24/hours day)
Flight Information 0344 209 7770
Any action you can take to help Leah stay are greatly appreciated and urgent action appeals like this really can make a difference, as we saw before.