A seriously ill Nigerian girl was spared deportation tonight when officials agreed to review her case.
The Department of Justice confirmed that five-year-old Ayodola Adekunle and her family were granted a last-minute reprieve after her legal team intervened.
The youngster suffers from sickle-cell anaemia and had her spleen removed more than a year ago – leaving her susceptible to infections and malaria.
Her mother Eniola said Ayodola has some hope of living if she remains in Ireland and appealed to Justice Minister Dermot Ahern not to send her daughter home to die.
“I am pleading on behalf of Ayodola and her condition to allow her to stay,” said Ms Adekunle.
“She cannot survive in a malaria zone. I want him to use his good position and help us on humanitarian grounds to let us stay in the country.”
The family – who have exhausted all legal channels of the asylum process – were due to be deported tonight.
A spokesman for the Department of Justice said: “Following legal intervention on behalf of the child’s family, the Department of Justice has agreed to carry out a review of this specific case.”
Ayodola has been receiving treatment at Our Lady’s Children’s Hospital in Dublin, where her spleen was removed because of complications associated with her condition.
Her doctor, Karina McMahon, has publicly supported the family’s plight and fears Ayodola’s life would be seriously impaired if she returned to Nigeria.
She said 50% of children in Africa with sickle-cell anaemia do not live to see their fifth birthday, adding that those with no spleen have a high risk of dying of malaria.
A handful of supporters gathered outside the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB) as Ms Adekunle arrived to sign-on for officials. They will return again next Wednesday – when they may know their fate.
A bubbly Ayodola smiled with her brother Ayotomia, eight, and two-year-old sister Ayobami unaware of the controversy surrounding her future.
“A child without a spleen cannot survive in a malaria zone and cannot fight infection,” continued Ms Adekunle, who is living at the Balseskin Reception Centre in north Dublin.
“Before I came to this country malaria was a very, very tough thing and she had a spleen then. But now, with no spleen, I don’t know how she is ever going to survive it.”
Sickle-cell disease is a genetic life-long blood disorder characterised by red blood cells that assume an abnormal, rigid sickle shape and is prevalent in about 20 per 1,000 births in Nigeria.
Nigerian-born researcher Esther Onolememen maintained medical help for the condition is non existent in her home country.
She also warned sick youngsters and their families are often stigmatised by their own communities.
“The child is looked at and treated as if they are possessed, it’s called abiku,” said Ms Onolememen, who is taking a PhD in public policy at UCD.
“And because of the lack of medical support, children do not live past seven or eight.”