Socialist Worker

Fighting the policies that sent asylum seeker Ama home to die

by Matthew Cookson
Issue No. 2097

Campaigners in Cardiff are to highlight New Labour's brutal treatment of asylum seekers this Saturday at a protest in memory of Ama Sumani.

Ama died in Ghana on 19 March after she was deported from Britain while she was being treated for cancer. She was 39, and her death left two children orphaned – a 16 year old daughter and a seven year old son.

Immigration officers removed her from the University Hospital of Wales in Cardiff at 8am on 9 January and she was on a plane to Ghana by mid-afternoon. Ama's visa was out of date. She had been in Britain for five years.

Ama contracted cancer while she was living in Britain. She required dialysis after her kidneys became damaged.

Even though the authorities were warned that Ama would die in Ghana due to a lack of medical resources, she was deported.

The decision provoked outrage in Cardiff and beyond. The Lancet medical journal said that Ama's removal from hospital was 'atrocious barbarism'.

Dr Barry Morgan, the archbishop of Wales, said, 'It is never appropriate for a civilised, wealthy society to turn, literally, a sick woman out of her bed and put her on a plane to a very worrying future.'

Now campaigners and friends of Ama are hoping that this Saturday's protest will be a tribute to Ama and will bring migrants and British people closer together. The protest is winning wide support across Cardiff.

Many other asylum seekers face a similar threat of deportation. Janet Symmons, Ama's friend and coordinator of the campaign, runs an African shop in Cardiff.

Janet told Socialist Worker, 'I am very upset and disgusted that this could happen to Ama in Britain. I never believed that this country could do such a thing until now.

'Ama is not the first person this has happened to and she won't be the last. I know of a Zambian woman who has a baby daughter with brain damage and a Cameroonian boy with hepatitis who have the threat of deportation hanging over them.

'The European Union is trying to kick black people out, even though Europe was built through black people's sweat. Our protest will draw attention to this situation – it is not something we will sit back and take.

'The government has no right to talk about human rights when it does inhumane things like sending Ama to die an agonising death.'

Karen Tyre, a local council worker and Left List candidate who is involved in the campaign, said, 'People are horrified and upset by Ama's death.

'Everyone is disgusted that New Labour is sending people away to die. It claims that Ama was being sent home, but home is where your feet are. If someone lives in Cardiff they should be treated here. The principle of humanity has gone out of the window.'

'Our leaders must take notice of our outcry,' said Janet. 'Thousands of pounds were raised to pay for Ama's treatment. I have received a number of letters since Ama's death from people who feel appalled by what happened.

'Why is the Border and Immigration Agency saying that it does not matter if people are having treatment for illnesses, and they can still be deported? It is saying that it doesn't care.

'Our protest is not just about Ama, but about human rights. Everyone is entitled to live. There should not be one rule for big people and another for the rest of us.'


High court ruling backs refugee health rights

The government's policies towards asylum seekers took a blow last week when the high court ruled that all asylum seekers who have not been ordered to leave Britain must be given access to healthcare.

This ruling overturned the government's decision to allow only GP and emergency care to asylum seekers. The high court ruling could apply to up to 500,000 people.

More than 11,000 asylum seekers have been refused refugee status but remain in Britain because they have no safe route home.

But the high court ruled last week that a Palestinian, known as A, must be given NHS treatment for liver disease. A's asylum application failed but he cannot return because of travel restrictions.

The court ruled that all failed asylum seekers should be considered by law to be ordinary residents and entitled to NHS care, until their removal from Britain.

A, who has been given accommodation and an allowance of £35 a week, was refused treatment for his liver disease because of his immigration status and because he has no money to pay.

Protest in memory of Ama Sumani – assemble 1pm, Saturday 19 April, Anuerin Bevan statue, Queen Street, Cardiff


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Tue 15 Apr 2008, 19:24 BST
Issue No. 2097
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