Genital Mutilation

FGM Leads Nigerian to Plea for Daughters' Asylum

Friday, January 27, 2006

Pamela Izevbekhai fled her native Nigeria for Ireland, hoping to save her two daughters from sexual mutilation, which killed a third daughter. Now she is struggling for asylum.



Pamela Izevbekhai and her daughters in Ireland.

DUBLIN, Ireland (WOMENSENEWS)--Pamela Izevbekhai fled her native Nigeria with her two young daughters just over a year ago and sought refuge in Ireland to save the girls from female genital mutilation.

Since then she has been alternatively in housing for asylum seekers, in hiding or in prison. On Monday she was released from prison and now her request for asylum has gone to the country's High Court.

She left her husband behind in Nigeria. It is his family who insists the girls undergo the procedure, and some relatives are in the United Kingdom. They chose to seek asylum in Ireland because it is an English-speaking nation and she felt safer there.

Izevbekhai, a banking executive who used to work in Lagos, knows the horrors of female circumcision well.

Her first daughter, Elizabeth, bled to death at 18 months of age in 1994 when the family of her husband--a successful businessman--demanded the procedure. Female genital mutilation sometimes entails the removal of the clitoris. It can also entail cutting the outer labia and sewing together the remaining skin so that only urine and menstrual fluid can escape.

"I have a daughter in the grave, don't you understand that?" Izevbekhai demanded of the barrister representing the Irish government during her hearing.

Now Izevbekhai is struggling to prevent her living daughters from meeting the same fate as their deceased sister.

On Monday, Irish High Court Justice Finlay Geoghehan released Izevbekhai from Mountjoy Prison where she had been held since Jan. 13 and ordered her to return to the asylum home in Sligo where she and her daughters had lived during the past year.

Despite repeated calls by Galway-based Rape Crisis Network Ireland and the Health Service Executive, the country's national health service, Izevbekhai may still be deported.

Lost Appeal in November

Last November, Izevbekhai lost her appeal to gain asylum in Ireland, resulting in the deportation order that sent her into hiding.

After a month in underground safe houses, she was arrested by immigration officers who followed a tip and discovered her in a meeting with a social worker who was trying to help her see her children. The girls, Jemima, age 3, and Naomi, age 5, were in state-run foster care at the time.

As the justice read out her prison release order on Monday, Izevbekhai held back tears, but one of her two female prison guards gave in to them.

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