DISRUPTION OF YOUNG LIVES (i): Effects of Deportation on a Child’s Education and Development
With our primary focus being on the most vulnerable of immigrant groups—mothers and children, our recent encounter have revealed the untold hardship of deportation on school children.
Clinging tightly to her handbag (which seem to be the only luggage she had with her) in one hand and her daughter in the other, she stood in the scorching sun right outside the NACHO gate (the cargo section of the international airport) where they had just been dumped on Monday 21st 2019 with tears rolling down her cheeks, feeling lost, helpless and hopeless while at the same time trying to accept the reality that she is back to Nigeria with no personal belongings nor a dime to her name.
Without any prior notice of deportation, Stella was on her way home from church with her daughter on Sunday evening when she was accosted by a group of police officers at the train station. She had received a call from her neighbor minutes before then informing her of the presence of over thirty police officers at her place of residence who had come asking after her.
Without any explanation, Stella was asked to tender her auweis (her German Identification Card) and asked to come with them to her place of residence. On arrival at her place, she was asked to pack a few of her belongings not more than 20KG as she was due for deportation and expected to go with them without any further delay, all while not acknowledging her request to put a call through to her daughter’s daddy who stayed in another city in Germany, regarding her custody. Her phones were ceased while attempting to make the call against their wish and she was further handcuffed and forced into the police van along with her daughter.
Stella recounted how she had been in Germany since 2015 and how she had not been receiving her taschen gold (monthly pocket money given to refugees) for over a year on the claims that she had exhausted her asylum and have had to make do with pocket money paid only to her daughter. She further stated that if she had not been deported today, her daughter would probably soon have her papers/ resident permit, since she had been working on the process with her lawyer for a while now.
She narrated her terrible experience aboard the chartered flight from Germany to Lagos, as she was stripped of all dignity as a mother right in the presence of her child, she was handcuffed like a criminal with three police officers attached to both her and her daughter all the way from Germany to Lagos, Nigeria. She further explained that the handcuffs were taken off as soon as the aircraft touched down in Lagos.
Speaking with little Kaffy (real name withheld) who was still devastated and terrified about all she had experienced in the last few hours from Germany to Nigeria, she told of how scared and unhappy she was seeing her mum treated badly and that all she could do was cry and beg them to leave her mummy alone. When asked if she would love to go back to Germany, she said yes but that she wouldn’t want to see her mummy handcuffed again.
Kaffy who would clock 8 years in three days’ time was said to be a 2nd grader whose education have now been disrupted as a result of the unforeseen deportation. Not only has this experience of an abrupt and involuntary change in her family circumstances brought adverse implications for her development but has also exposed Kaffy to some health dangers such as Malaria, Typhoid and other viral diseases which she could have been protected against had she been vaccinated before departure from Germany. This as we have come to find out are one of the precautions taken by travellers both young and old coming into Nigeria from Germany for visitations.
Children thrive in stable and nurturing environments where they have a routine and generally know what to expect from their daily lives. Although some change in children’s lives is normal and anticipated but sudden and dramatic disruptions such as the deportation of Kaffy can be extremely stressful and affect a child’s feeling of security.
Stella who could have acted as a buffer against any negative effects of Kaffy’s deportation experience which would have helped Kaffy learn how to cope with the adversity, adapt to her new surroundings, and regulate her emotions is equally broken and unable to provide Kaffy that needed supportive relationship. Thus the unbuffered stress which escalates to extreme levels can be detrimental to Kaffy’s mental health and cognitive functioning.
The SMwME Team was glad to have been on ground to receive Stella and Kaffy who were with other single mothers and their children taken to a hotel for their temporary accommodation, given access to telephones to reach out to their friends and families who had no prior knowledge of their arrival, given a decent meal, and also gave a listening ear and a shoulder to lean on as they emptied all of their emotions while the reality of it all gradually dawned on them that evening.
We have also been able to mediate between the deportees and other relevant re-integration and service partners for further re-integration through the intervention of Innocent Duru, a correspondent of The Nation’s Newspaper.