Living on Borrowed Time
Gopul in the park, aged sixteen
Gopul Anand was sixteen years old when he and his family moved to the UK. His father, a highly respected expert in economics, sustainability and social development, was asked to join Oxfam in their Oxford office to be their Global Resilient Livelihood Advisor. Gopul settled in quickly and loved his new life.
A Turn for the Worse
Unfortunately, when Shekhar, Gopul’s father, tried to renew their visa after five years, the Home Office rejected their application, despite Oxfam still needing him to do his vital work. The family were told they would have to leave the life they had built for themselves. Because of this, Gopul’s world spun out of control and his health took a dramatic turn for the worse. Shekhar filed an appeal, then the family heard nothing from the Home Office for two and a half years.
The extreme stress of this uncertainty caused Gopul to deteriorate quickly and he spent ten months in an Assessment and Treatment Unit; languishing until his parents won a tribunal for his release. He still has nightmares of the abuses he suffered there. Gopul stopped being able to go to his social groups and his impulsive behaviours increased. He stopped being able to take public transport, even with two support workers helping him and his world shrunk to his family home, spending time on his computer and drawing.
Gopul in the Underground station, aged sixteen
The Home Office eventually wrote to the Anand family, telling them that their appeal had been rejected and that they had to leave. Shekhar asked for an exemption based on medical grounds, that Gopul was by this time in no fit state to travel. While they await the answer to their appeal for an exemption, the Anand family cannot travel as their passports are still being held by the Home Office. They were not even able to visit Shekhar’s mother when she underwent heart surgery.
Along with the application for the exemption, Shekhar submitted evidence from Gopul’s psychiatrist and social worker that clearly stated that a plane journey would cause Gopul to be a danger to himself and possibly others. They also pointed out that the support and treatment that Gopul was receiving was not readily available in India and his physical and mental health would suffer tremendously.
Running Out of Time
Gopul, aged seven, and his brother
The Anand family find out if their exemption will be granted at the end of January. If the answer is no, they have no further options, they will have to leave despite the risk to Gopul’s health and the possible risk to other passengers on the flight.
We are asking everyone to sign the petition linked below asking the Home Office to grant Gopul the medical exemption that would allow him and his family to stay in the UK and continue to receive the support and treatment he needs to stay safe. Please share this article to help us spread awareness.
If you are able to do so and wish to do more, please contact your MP, any journalist you know, anyone you think might be able to help, and tell them what is happening. The more people know about Gopul and the more they protest at his inhumane treatment, the better chance we have of the Home Office deciding they need to accept the appeal and grant his exemption.