A Leeds schoolgirl and her mum who sought asylum in Britain have received an early Christmas present – permission to stay.
Elsa Temesgen and her 12-year-old daughter Bethlehem, who friends call Betty, were twice seized in dawn raids on their south Leeds home and imprisoned in readiness for deportation.
Now they are celebrating after the Home Office gave them leave to make their home in Britain permanent.
And they were joined by dozens of friends from their church and their community who campaigned for the decision.
Elsa and Betty, who is a pupil at Bruntcliffe high school, have lived in Leeds for five years.
Ms Temesgen, 39, who is trained in accountancy, is Eritrean. She married an Ethiopian. The two countries have been involved in a bloody war in which tens of thousands of civilians have been “ethnically cleansed.”
Ms Temesgen also suffered domestic violence.
She fled to Britain with Betty and sought asylum. She said they would be persecuted if they were sent back. She would have had to return to Eritrea and Betty to Ethiopia.
Twice their home in Cottingley in south Leeds was raided early in the morning, and the two were arrested and imprisoned in Yarls Wood detention centre in Bedfordshire to await deportation.
Betty wrote from the centre about her harrowing experiences.
Each time the deportation was postponed after legal interventions. The last raid was in January.
Friends launched a petition calling on the Home Office to let them remain in Britain, there were appeals from Betty’s schoolfriends and from members of the pentecostal church they attend in Beeston in south Leeds. Their case was taken up by Leeds Central Labour MP Hilary Benn.
The YEP was inundated with letters in their support when we asked readers whether Betty and her mum should be allowed to stay.
They have now been given permanent leave to stay in the UK.
They received the news in an afternoon ‘phone call from their solicitor in London.
Ms Temesgen said: “He said he had received a letter from the Home Office saying we could remain indefinitely and he said ‘congratulations.’
“I don’t know the reasons – it doesn’t matter. The only thing is we can stay.
“Betty was with me and I just hugged and kissed her. She was crying. I can’t believe it.
“I called and e-mailed my friends. They are so happy for us.”
Betty said: “I am really happy. All my worries have gone now. I rang my friends up and they are really happy as well.”
They planned to celebrate at their Beeston church.
Ms Temesgen now hopes to put her accountancy skills to use. As an asylum seeker she has not been allowed to work.
“I will definitely be looking for a job,” she said. “I don’t want to live on benefits. I can’t wait to start work.”
Geoff Ellis, minister at Beeston Hill United Free Church which Elsa and Betty attend, said: “This is wonderful news after all the campaigning and prayers that have been given in support of Elsa and Betty’s case.”