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Family torn apart by welfare and immigration services.


Stefanos Evripidou

THE FATHER of an infant in foster care yesterday pleaded with the Welfare Services to return his five-month-old daughter, who along with her locked-up mother face deportation at any moment.

Ali Kazemi from Iran called on the welfare services to prevent immigration from deporting his girlfriend of six years, Ruby May Carino, and their five-month-old daughter Yalda to the Philippines without his consent.

The Filipino mother has spent the last nine and a half years in Cyprus working legally as a domestic helper. As such she was entitled to apply for Cypriot citizenship or acquire the status of a long-term resident, rights that she was never informed of.

After giving birth last December, her employer, who was not informed of the pregnancy, said she would end her employment if she kept the baby, leading immigration to arrest Carino on May 10 during a visit to the Limassol welfare services.

On May 14, against the wishes of the father, deportation orders were ready to be executed against mother and child, but postponed last minute following an intervention by migrant support group KISA.

Carino is currently being detained at Limassol holding cells, while the infant is being cared for by foster parents in Larnaca. Despite Kazemi's desire to look after the baby while Carino is in detention, both mother and daughter are facing deportation at any moment.

"This is my first baby. I'm not 23 years old. I want my baby, I want my family. I am in Limassol, before I was illegal, now I am legal, my girlfriend is in jail and my baby is in Larnaca," the 39-year-old father said yesterday.

KISA head Doros Polycarpou argued that welfare had failed the family by effectively leaving the parents with two options after giving birth: give the child up for adoption or leave the country.

"If the child is deported, welfare is breaking the law. From the moment they don't want to give the child up for adoption, and the mother is in detention, the father is the legal guardian, and they will be sending the child out of the country without his consent," said Polycarpou.

According to Kazemi, Carino never told her long-term employer that she was pregnant in fear that she would lose her job. When Carino's waters broke last December, Kazemi rushed his girlfriend to the nearest hospital, a private clinic in Limassol. The baby was born three months premature, weighing one and a half kilos, and taken immediately to Makarios Children's Hospital in Nicosia. He paid a medical bill of e1/42,500 for services offered.

The doctor on duty explained to Kazemi that the baby would need weeks of medical care at Makarios, costing e1/4400 a day. She suggested that the couple put the baby up for adoption if they cannot afford to look after her.

"I said OK. I was thinking about my girlfriend. She cannot walk. She needed an operation on a vein in her leg. It was the money, I could not pay everyday," said the 39-year-old painter.

An additional concern was that Kazemi had been in Cyprus since 2002 when he applied for asylum. Despite being rejected in 2004, making him illegally present on the island, he was only informed on April 23, 2010 after which he submitted an appeal and became legal again.

Also fearful of arrest, he initially did not put his name on the birth certificate, sparking suspicion among the welfare services as to his commitment to the child. Acting on KISA's advice, despite still being illegal, he secured a new birth certificate from court on April 21 identifying him as the father.

In the meantime, despite telling welfare to put the child up for adoption, Carino and Kazemi visited Makarios hospital every Sunday, their day off work. The tab was being picked up by the baby's new legal guardians, the welfare services.

One Sunday near the end of March, a hospital nurse told them that they should not have come as the baby's adoptive parents were due to arrive.

"I couldn't sleep. I told welfare I'm fighting with myself. We cannot give the baby for adoption. We want to be together as a family," said Kazemi.

The next day, on March 29, the couple informed welfare that they no longer wished to continue with adoption. Welfare replied that Carino could take the baby but that she would have to leave Cyprus as her employer refused to renew her contract.

The employer bought her a return ticket for April 26. A day before, the couple went to see the baby one last time before Carino ran away from her employer's house.

"I didn't let her go back. The baby is so small. It's a 20-hour journey to the Philippines via Bahrain. How would she go, one woman with two bags and a baby who is very weak. She had never left hospital to breathe fresh air. It was too much pressure. Nobody cared about the baby," said Kazemi.

The couple went underground for ten days, unsure what to do next. Carino eventually cracked, saying she didn't care what happened to her as long as she could be with her baby again. However, when she went to Limassol hospital, where the baby had been moved to, the staff told her that the baby had been given to foster parents.

The following Monday, May 10, Carino went to welfare to demand the return of her baby. She took with her a Cypriot woman who was prepared to take in Carino and the baby in exchange for her services as a domestic worker.

Welfare said immigration was responsible for such an arrangement, not them. The desperate mother asked them to call immigration to the office to sort it out. They arrived, she was arrested and now mother, father and daughter remain very much apart.

Kazemi insists that welfare return the baby to him until the situation is sorted.

"There is no other option really than to give the family a chance. Otherwise you are deporting the child against the will of the father, or deporting the mother and leaving the child with the father," said Polycarpou.

Copyright Cyprus Mail 2009

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Publication:Cyprus Mail (Cyprus)
Geographic Code:4EXCY
Date:May 22, 2010
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