A three-year-old Iranian child living in Britain is reported to have eaten hardly anything for two weeks after being traumatised by a raid on her home by UK immigration officials. She and her parents are now being held in the Yarl's Wood detention centre.
Feridoon Pourshahnaz Varjovi, Sheila Sadeghi and their daughter Taraneh now face deportation to Iran.
The family were dawn-raided on 13 May – the day after the new coalition government pledged that they would bring an end to the detention of children for immigration purposes.
“Taraneh was in shock after having lots of enforcement officers storm into their house that morning and has hardly eaten anything since,” explained Theresa Schleicher of Medical Justice, a charity working to improve health care for immigration detainees.
The family fled Iran after Sheila Sadeghi was accused by Iranian authorities of having an illicit relationship with her employer, an accusation which she denies. The situation has been further complicated by the couple's conversion to Christianity. The Home Office allege that the conversion is not genuine.
Taraneh's case is likely to be a stark reminder of the government's commitment, as campaigners refuse to be quiet if the promised abolition of child detention does not materialise.
The Immigration Minister, Damien Green, has promised to end child detention “within months” and the plan was included in this week's Queen's Speech, which set out the government's initial legislative programme.
But Medical Justice criticised Green after he said that the government had ended the detention of children in the Dungavel centre in Scotland. It turned out that some of the children had simply been moved to Yarl's Wood. These included an eight-month-old baby who endured a nine-hour road journey with her mother in the back of a van.
Medical Justice described this as “not an auspicious start” for the coalition's plans.