Exiled twins reprieved
A CAMPAIGN by Jewish communal leaders, Israeli diplomats and Jewish Agency officials has halted Home Office plans to return teenage twins to their native Kyrgyzstan — from where they fled to Britain three years ago after their parents were killed.
Students Karina and Kamila Kaya, aged 18, were arrested by immigration officials last month and interned in Yarl’s Wood detention centre near Bedford. They were due to be deported on Wednesday, but intervention — led by the Jewish community in Birmingham, where they attend the city’s Progressive Synagogue — resulted in a Home Office decision to give them a further seven weeks in the UK, during which time the Agency hopes to facilitate their emigration to Israel.
Speaking to the JC from the detention centre, from where they were due to be temporarily released this week, Kamila said that she and her sister, students at Bournville College of Further Education, had endured “horrible” conditions at Yarl’s Wood. “I don’t know why we were arrested. This place is like a prison.”
Her sister described it as “a scary place. It is really hard. They keep checking up on us, checking what we are eating and what we are doing. They even watch us when we are in the bathroom.” She and her sister appreciated the support they had received from Jewish and Israeli officials. “If we can’t stay in the UK, then we will be pleased to go to Israel,” she told the JC.
The reprieve came after appeals to the Home Office from the Israeli Embassy and the Jewish Agency, as well as Board of Deputies president Henry Grunwald, Birmingham’s Jewish Community Care charity and the Progressive Synagogue, where the twins recently underwent a belated batmitzvah. There was support too from Labour MP Lynne Jones, the member for Birmingham Selly Oak.
Rabbi Margaret Jacobi of the Progressive Synagogue told the JC: “We are delighted that the Home Office has decided to give us more time.” The girls had been encouraged by phone calls and visits from the Jewish community, but were still concerned about what might happen to them. “There is nothing for them in Kyrgyzstan. They could be in danger if they return.”
They had fled Kyrgyzstan after their father, a military police officer, was shot dead. Their mother was also killed after she smuggled them out of their house and passed them to an uncle who managed to put them on a plane to Britain. The motive for the killings of their parents is unclear.
Sharon Grey, a social worker for Jewish Community Care, said the Kayas were settled in Birmingham and their housing had been arranged by the charity. They had learned English and were doing well at college.
However, when they turned 18 last month, they were told their asylum application had been rejected. “Officers took them to the detention centre and said they would be deported on January 3. One of them collapsed from shock.”
A Jewish Agency spokesman said it was still waiting for the Home Office to release original copies of the twins’ birth certificates, but officials would visit them to start the process for aliyah. Once in Israel the twins would be received in an absorption centre.
A Home Office official said: “We do not comment on individual cases.”
Saved from deportation — for now: Kamila and Karina Kaya