Refugee who brought injured niece to UK illegally given leave to remain

A man whom the Home Office repeatedly tried to deport after he brought his badly burned baby niece to the UK illegally for treatment has won his right to remain in Britain after a six-year battle.

Najat Ibrahim Ismail, 35, fled torture in Iraq and came to the UK in 2004. He and his British wife, Emma Ismail, have three children and live in Portsmouth.

Ismail was distraught after hearing in January 2016 that his niece Rwen Tahsin Ibrahim, then seven months old, had sustained 50% burns after falling into an open fire in a refugee camp in Dunkirk. Rwen’s family had fled Islamic State and were planning to travel from northern France to the UK to claim asylum and reunite with family members when the accident happened.

Rwen received emergency treatment at a hospital in Dunkirk, but her family said it was impossible to prevent her burns becoming infected in the camp’s insanitary conditions.

Ismail decided to drive to France to bring the baby and some of her family members to the UK where she could be in a safe and clean environment and get the medical care she needed. . He was prosecuted for assisting illegal entry to the UK and jailed for two years in May 2017.

The Home Office made three attempts to deport Ismail to Iraq in 2019, all of which were halted at the eleventh hour. Since then he and his lawyers have been fighting for him to be allowed to remain in the UK with his family. Rwen’s family have been granted leave to remain, and the two families are very close. Ismail said Rwen had made a good recovery and was thriving at school.

He said he and his family were overjoyed that they were no longer at risk of being separated. “For the first time I can sleep well,” he said. “I’m the happiest person in the world and I can’t stop smiling. I can’t thank my solicitor enough. She saved my life.”

During his criminal trial, the judge criticised Ismail for planning to assist illegal immigration but said: “I do accept that you were not a person who was trafficking for gain. These were family members you decided to assist.”

Ismail, who has been diagnosed with PTSD and an anxiety disorder, won his appeal against deportation in the immigration tribunal in July. The Home Office sought permission to appeal against the ruling, but it was refused and his leave to remain documents are being prepared.

The judge who upheld his appeal said in his judgment that it would be “unduly harsh” to separate him from his family and deport him to Iraq. He said that in making his decision he “took account of the unusual circumstances surrounding the commission of the offence”.

Ismail’s solicitor, Hannah Baynes of Duncan Lewis, said: “We are very pleased that Najat will be allowed to remain in the UK after so many years of uncertainty. The judge acknowledged that there was a risk of Najat’s mental health deteriorating if he was forced to live separately from his family in Iraq, where he has a well-founded fear of persecution.”

The Guardian