Barrister says she became legal expert while in Home Office immigration detention | Immigration and asylum

A refugee who has just been called to the bar says she has the Home Office to thank for her career after she became an amateur legal expert while locked up in a detention centre.

Aderonke Apata, 55, from Nigeria, said she was proud to take part in a ceremony last week where she, along with dozens of other newly qualified barristers, were formally called to the bar.

Apata was almost forcibly removed from the UK on a Home Office charter flight to Nigeria in January 2013 after her asylum claim, based on the fact that as a lesbian who had been persecuted in Nigeria her life would be in danger if she was returned there, was rejected.

Apata had completed a degree in microbiology before fleeing Nigeria and hoped to pursue a career in public health in the UK.

She was detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre in Bedfordshire, which at the time was used mainly for women, from the end of 2011 until the beginning of 2013, including a week spent in solitary confinement in 2012.

During her time in Yarl’s Wood, more women – who either could not understand English or did not understand what the Home Office had written in refusal letters about their immigration claims – turned to Apata for help in explaining what was happening with their legal cases.

“The type of language the Home Office uses is very difficult to understand. But I learned quite a bit about immigration law from reading the other women’s refusal letters during the period of more than a year that I was locked up,” said Apata.

She had received poor legal advice about her own case and when she was given removal directions from the Home Office for a flight to Nigeria for 24 January

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