Lucee* was 21 when she left her family and studies in Sierra Leone to come to England, last year.
She felt she had no other options after learning that her father was planning on forcing her to undergo female genital mutilation (FGM), and then become the second wife to an older man she’d never met.
“FGM is pure wickedness. A friend from my school died three days after she had it. I knew I didn’t want these things my father wanted for me. I don’t ever want to be a second wife, and if I want to marry it would have to be my own choice – not someone else’s,” she told me.
“But the more I tried to tell him I wasn’t doing it because it’s my life, the angrier he got.
“My mum tried to persuade my father as well, but he was aggressive. He told us we couldn’t disobey his order.”
Lucee, who was studying accountancy at university, confided in her aunt who lives in Birmingham. She suggested her niece visit her for a few weeks to escape the situation and let her father calm down. Lucee, now 22, agreed and came to England on a three-month visiting visa.
But a few weeks into her trip, she realised that her father wouldn’t change his mind.“I wanted to give a strong message to my father that I didn’t want to do what he wanted and I hoped he would understand. But when he found out I’d left, he became very aggressive towards my mum and younger sister.“He was more determined that if I came back, I would have FGM and the arranged marriage. He now suspects my mother of helping me [she speaks to Lucee regularly] and says he’ll return her to her [birth] family if he finds out it’s true.“I know if I went back my father would find me and force me to have this.”
‘I was detained’
Lucee’s aunt decided that the her niece should stay in the UK for a longer time period, so she called the Home Office, telling them she wanted to seek asylum.
They set an appointment for 11pm in a centre in Croydon back on September 1 last year, where Lucee would be interviewed.
“My auntie asked them if she could come with me. But they told me to go alone, so my uncle drove me there and waited outside.
“I never came back out.”