Five-year-old Rania Must Stay

I’m a big fan of petitions. Not just because I like adding my name to a (hopefully) long list along with others who feel the same way as I do, but because it’s a measure of democracy. If enough signatures are obtained, maybe, just maybe, those in authority may take the desired action. It’s no guarantee of course: sometimes they work, sometimes they don’t. but it’s the thought that counts, right? It’s the taking part that counts, simply by giving up a whole two minutes of your life to add your name to a list of signatures.

Actually, I’ve probably signed more petitions in the last few months than I’ve signed in a year.

It’s the sign of the times: the public sector cuts, the redundancies, the loss of front line staff to essential public services, the scapegoating of disabled people, the welfare reform…the list goes on and on. More petitions are floating around cyber space than I care to imagine.

Yes, petitions may seem the easy option, it may be the ‘soft’ options for the hard core campaigner among us, but they can and sometimes do get the job done.

This is what I’m hoping with a petition I signed recently. The story behind it touched me deeply, because it is yet another story of injustice inflicted by the state, only this time it affects a five year old child.

On the surface it seems a typical heart wrenching story, an easy target to tug at the heart strings: small disabled girl sent away to die.

Only this story isn’t just a story: Rania is a real person: a five-year-old child who came to the UK from her home country, Algeria in 2008 to be looked after by her aunt and uncle. Very soon, her disabilities became apparent: she has Cerebral Palsy, severe epilepsy and is partially sighted. Being in the UK means she receives the very best medical care on the NHS enabling her to a good quality of life. She attends school, has a stable home life, has a lot of friends and is described as a very happy and well loved little girl.

The Home Office have decided to send Rania back to Algeria because they believe they have extended her visa often enough and there is no evidence she will come to any harm in her home country.

I (and thousands of others) know this to be wrong. Algeria is renowned for a having a very different disability policy from the UK. It believes in institutions and superstition: epileptic fits are often thought to be possessions of the devil. What kind of life would Rania have in this country? What emotional and psychological affect would it have on a five year old child who has spent most of her life in the UK? How would it feel to be Rania, having lived all her conscious life in a loving and secure environment, to be taken to a strange country, with a very different culture and a medieval attitude towards disabled people? Severely disabled people in Algeria are more often than not confined to institutions where they are neglected, due in part to lack of staffing and money. For Rania it will be like a prison. There is absolutely no doubt:  her quality of life will deteriorate if she is sent back to Algeria. Her family back in Algeria and in the UK fear sending her back will seal her fate: she will die. She will have no access to medication or any kind of healthcare.

Don’t let this happen – whatever your views on immigration, Rania is just a child and is already enjoying a happy and secure family life in the UK with those who love her. Don’t let them take it away from her.

Sign the petition.