A mother who fears her two daughters will be subjected to female genital mutilation in her native Nigeria has been told she will be deported on Tuesday evening. Afusat Saliu, 31, and her two daughters Bassy, four, and Rashidat, two, were seized by officials on Wednesday and were due to be flown to Lagos but were given an overnight reprieve.
Human rights activists representing Saliu said that she was expected to be deported with her daughters at 7pm from Heathrow airport. It comes after lawyers launched a judicial review in a last-ditch attempt to keep the three of them in Britain and 125,000 people signed a petition demanding that the Home Office reconsider the case.
Bhumika Parmar, of BP Legal, said: "Over the last few days we have been working and fighting desperately and tried every avenue for the Government to hear her case but it seems they are determined to send her back. It's been a very tough few days for Afusat and her daughters and you can just imagine how vulnerable they are and how they have been affected by this ongoing saga.
"We have been told that Afusat and her daughters will be sent home today although they haven't given us an exact time. We haven't been able to get hold of Afusat but will continue to make the case for her and will continue our appeals."
Saliu fled to the UK in 2011 while she was heavily pregnant after her stepmother threatened to subject her daughter Bassy to the cutting. She has previously said she fears both her daughters will be mutilated and she will be forced to marry against her will if they are forced to return to Nigeria.
Friends of the family, who are Christian and have been living in Leeds, have also warned they could be targeted by Islamic terror group Boko Haram, who recently kidnapped about 250 schoolgirls in Nigeria, if they are deported. Anj Handa, a friend of Saliu who set up the petition on campaigning website Change.org, said: "We have been thwarted at every turn and the Government has failed on so many counts in this case.
"The Home Office has failed to stick to its own guidelines on so many counts and have failed Afusat and her daughters miserably. The Government had a chance to show leadership on the issue of FGM and again have failed miserably."
Following last week's reprieve, billionaire businessman and Virgin boss Sir Richard Branson was flooded with more than a thousand tweets urging him personally to step in to block the flight. A Home Office spokesman said: "We consider every claim for asylum on its individual merits and in this case the claimant was not considered to be in need of protection.
"The case has gone through the proper legal process and our decision has been supported by the UK courts on five separate occasions, while the European Court of Human Rights declined an application to halt the removal."