19-year-old Yashika Bageerathi was months away from sitting her A Levels. Instead, she's now en route to Heathrow, bound for a lonely 9pm flight to her home country – despite a nationwide outcry over her deportation.
Bageerathi has been held at Yarl's Wood detention centre near Bedford for two weeks. A spokesperson from her school, Oasis Academy Hadley in north London, has said that she is set to fly out of London tonight on an Air Mauritius flight, exactly three days after the Home Office attempted to deport her on Mother's Day. (Nice.)
UPDATE: Members of the Fight For Yashika campaign have confirmed that she has been deported from the country. Air Mauritius released a statement that says they had "no choice" but to follow the orders of the UK authorities. According to an activist who spoke to Bageerathi, Air Mauritius had put eight empty rows of flight seats between the student and other passengers in order to "stop her from yelling to others for help".
A Change.org petition with over 170,000 signatures, including Cara Delevingne and campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez, called on Home Secretary Theresa May to overturn the deportation ruling and allow Bageerathi to finish her A Levels in London. Now, people are taking to Twitter under the #SaveYashika and #FightForYashika hashtags to demand that Air Mauritius refuse to allow her to board the plane. An spokesperson from the airline told us that they were "unable to comment":
This is the third time the Home Office has tried to fly Bageerathi out – last Tuesday, British Airways apparently refused to allow her on board a flight from Gatwick Airport. Immigration minister James Brokenshire told Parliament that Theresa May would not allow her a reprieve, saying that Bageerathi's case was not sufficiently "exceptional" to warrant an intervention.
Bageerathi and her family came to the UK in 2011 to escape a relative who was physically abusive. Despite claiming asylum last summer, the family now face the threat of deportation – and because Bageerathi is legally an adult at 19, her case is being considered separate to theirs.
"He [the family member] is already after our lives, he says he has people waiting at the airport for us to come back," Bageerathi told the Guardian from Yarl's Wood. "He lost a lot of money because of us to do with his drug-dealing."
A spokesperson for the Home Office told us, "We have received assurances from the Mauritian authorities that the family’s safety will be protected and that Yashika will be able to complete her education."
Cool story bro! Let's not forget that two days prior to this, a 40-year-old female inmate died in Yarl's Wood and people still don't know why, so it's not like Theresa May has the welfare of Yarl's Wood returnees as a high priority. There is increasing public outrage over the detention of women and children in Yarl's Wood and their deportation. Zadie Smith called it an "offence to liberty" and a "shame to any civilised nation".
"How many of us want to wake up with the knowledge that we live in a country willing to imprison victims of rape and torture, who have arrived at our shores to request asylum?" she writes. "How many want to hear how much it costs our government to contract a private company to detain hundreds of vulnerable women who have committed no criminal acts... Or force her kicking and screaming on to a plane? These things could only make a form of twisted sense if we, as a country, had come to see migration itself as a criminal offence. Is that really what we believe?"
I don't know, Britain – you tell me.
Follow Zing Tsjeng on Twitter here @misszing