YOUNG VOICES

Disabled Student Activist Considered 'Curse' By Family Faces Deportation To Nigeria

17/12/2015 14:53 GMT | Updated 17/12/2015 14:59 GMT

The Home Office has rejected a claim for asylum by a disabled student activist who says her family in Nigeria believes she is a "curse".

Kelechi Chioba, 35, who came to Britain in 2011 as a postgraduate student, made a plea to stay in the UK on the grounds that she would not be safe in her home country, where she says she experienced severe physical and verbal abuse at the hands of her family.

The student disability campaigner and National Union of Students (NUS) activist is wheelchair-bound and suffers from polio and mental health issues.

kelechi chioba

Chioba came to Britain as a postgraduate student in 2011

The Home Office told the former University of Wolverhampton hospital and healthcare student that there was "nothing sufficiently serious in the family or private life circumstances that could possibly outweigh the need for immigration controls to be enforced".

Since the decision was announced, 'Save disabled student Kelechi from persecution #SaveKelechi', an online petition to keep Chioba in the country, has been signed more than a thousand times.

kelechi chioba

Chioba suffers from polio and mental health issues

The webpage states: "In Nigeria, she is regarded as a curse and a source of shame upon her family, due to her disability. She has suffered severe abuse at the hands of her family, including verbal abuse, beatings and attempts to end her life.

"We should not have an immigration system which devalues the lives of those facing oppression such as Kelechi. We have an urgent responsibility, as one of the world’s richest nations, to ensure that those fleeing oppression and discrimination wherever they come from, get the same right to a quality of life in the UK as any UK citizen," the statement continues.

"Whilst in the UK, despite disability and difficulty, Kelechi has worked and volunteered to better the lives of others and it is shameful that the UK government refuses to protect her from the oppression she unfairly receives because of how and where she was born."

Following a stay in hospital, Chioba has returned to National Asylum Support Service (NASS) accommodation, but is struggling to survive on a reduced budget of £31 per week, the Independent reports.

The activist's supporters have organised a fundraising campaign, which has raised almost £1,000, to help pay for legal costs and food and NUS officers have written to the Home Office and Derby South MP Margaret Beckett.

In the open letter, officers write: "Kelechi fears that if she returns she will be abused and put in a psychiatric home. She has observed patients in psychiatric care being chained up and forced to take medication before. She believes the level of abuse will be severe and her life will be in danger.

"She received verbal abuse and beatings from her family whilst in Nigeria, who consider her a curse, and was sexually abused by coworkers, and in response she made several attempts to end her life. Although Kelechi came here to study, in reality she was running away from constant abuse.

"Despite so many barriers, Kelechi has been a tireless campaigner, working with both NUS’ Black Students’ and Disabled Students’ campaigns on numerous occasions and has served as an elected member of the committee for the national campaigns.

"We urge you to intervene in this matter to save Kelechi from deportation and ensure her safety here in the UK, where she has contributed to enormously and considers to be her home now."