Mother makes new appeal to High Court over deportation

 

A WOMAN who believes her two young daughters are at risk of female genital mutilation if the family is deported to Nigeria has appealed to the High Court to prevent their deportation until their latest legal challenge has been determined.

Mr Justice John Hedigan will rule next Tuesday on the application by Pamela Izevbekhai for an injunction restraining the deportation of herself and her daughters, Naomi (7) and Jemima (6), pending a decision on her challenge to the Minister for Justice's refusal to consider her claim for "subsidiary protection" here.

Ms Izevbekhai lost a baby daughter after the child was forcibly genitally mutilated in Nigeria.

The Minister for Justice is resisting the injunction application on grounds including that Ms Izevbekhai's latest court proceedings raise no arguable grounds and because the High Court has already upheld the validity of the deportation orders.

Yesterday, Mel Christle SC, for the family, said their case on subsidiary protection was based on arguable grounds and their circumstances warranted the injunction.

He said Ms Izevbekhai's in-laws were a very powerful family within Nigeria and considered genital mutilation a "rite of passage".

The court has jurisdiction to grant an injunction where the rights of people are endangered, he said.

Counsel asked that the children be removed from court so he could refer to a report by Amnesty International stating there were inadequate protections against female genital mutilation in Nigeria and there was a serious risk of harm. He also referred to a media report to the effect children are being sent to Nigeria to have the procedure performed under pretence of a holiday.

Mr Justice Hedigan said that while the court had heard very disturbing information about the practice, there was "nothing new" in the material advanced and the court was already very aware of the issue, as an enormous number of legal challenges were brought based on arguments of female genital mutilation.

He said the Oireachtas has designated the Refugee Appeals Commissioner and Refugee Appeals Tribunal to decide issues concerning the practice, and those bodies had repeatedly said state protections in Nigeria were adequate.

Mr Christle said the courts are aware only of cases brought where genital mutilation was rejected as a ground for preventing deportation. He said courts are unaware how many deportations may have been halted due to fears of the practice. There was no federal law in Nigeria outlawing mutilation, he said.

Ms Izevbekhai's claims of serious risk to her daughters had not been refuted by any medical expert for the State, counsel added.

Opposing the injunction, Eoin McCullough SC, for the Minister, argued that the position of Ms Izevbekhai towards the nature of the legal proceedings was constantly changing.

He said Ms Izevbekhai had no substantial grounds for her judicial review.

Counsel said the "tenuous" claims of a real risk of serious harm due to mutilation had already been examined and rejected by the Refugee Appeals Commissioner, the Refugee Appeals Tribunal and High Court.

Ms Izevbekhai has said she left Nigeria in January 2005 due to her husband's family's practice of genital mutilation.

Her first daughter Elizabeth died at 17 months from blood loss, which the attending doctor described as being possibly the result of female circumcision performed on the baby.