There are times where I wonder why, in a climate of growing fear and mistrust of immigrants in Britain, I choose to remain. Last night as I watched the unfolding furore over Yashika Bageerathi’s deportation was one of those.
Yashika was until last night a nineteen-year-old student at Oasis Academy Hadley in London, preparing to take her A-level exams in just a few weeks’ time. By all accounts she was an excellent student, earning a number of accolades during her academic career thus far. She and her family had applied for asylum in the UK. Yashika’s case was tried separately from the rest of her family because of her age.
The Home Office insisted on Yashika’s deportation on an Air Mauritius flight last night, separate from her mother and siblings, despite the fact that her exams were just a few weeks away. As the principal of her school said, the timing of her deportation would have made little difference to society at large but a world of difference to this young woman.
I have no idea what awaited Yashika on the other end of the plane ride when she left from Heathrow last night, though reportedly no one planned to greet her on arrival. The Home Office claims to have assurances of her ability to sit her exams in Mauritius, though the school disputes this. Presumably since her request for asylum was not granted, officials at the Home Office are in some measure also assured of her safety. But in the wake of Britain’s role in protecting one bright young girl, the inspiring Malala Yousefzai, an intervention that enabled Malala to become a world-renowned ambassador for the right of every young person (particularly young women) to receive an education, sending Yashika away just weeks from her A-level exams seems like a particularly cruel twist.
What I do know is this: Yashika is reported to be an incredibly talented mathematician and a gifted volunteer tutor devoted to helping others understand the subject. At a time when campaigners around the world, including many within the UK government, are fighting to increase girls’ engagement with STEM subjects, Yashika still has the opportunity to create a shining future for herself. Never mind A Levels, Yashika. Sit the SATs instead. Get an incredible score. Get a full-ride scholarship to a world-class university—in America. If Britain wants to turn away bright minds like Yashika’s, let her talents be celebrated in the States.
I sincerely hope Yashika’s skills in maths become a ticket to a bright future. If the Home Office can’t see the short-sightedness of forcing this talented young woman to leave the country without completing her exams, nor the cruelty of doing so without her family or any support network to receive her, they don’t deserve to keep her.