Pregnant women who have been deported but are forced to leave their babies in Britain is becoming an ‘increasing problem’, an influential British MP has said, after it emerged that an Italian national was forced into a caesarean section by social workers.
The Italian woman, who was made to leave her baby in Britain, had travelled to the country for a two-week Ryanair training course at Stansted when she was sectioned under the mental health act and told she must stay in hospital.
Essex social services then obtained a High Court order against the woman, allowing her to be forcibly sedated and the child to be taken from her womb.
John Hemming, MP for Birmingham Yardley and chairman of the Public Family Law Reform Coordinating Campaign, which wants reform and greater openness in court proceedings involving family matters, said there were many other instances of children taken from mothers in Britain, who are then deported.
He referred to the case of a mother whose child, now five-years-old, was born in Sweden, but was taken into the care of a local authority in Britain after her mother was involved in an incident at Heathrow airport.
The child was placed in a foster home in September 2012 and continued to live there until an appeal court ruled British authorities did not have jurisdiction over the child.
Mr Hemming said: “It’s a very big problem that has been swept under the carpet. Partly because it is so awful, people want to turn a blind eye to it.”
"In essence families count for nothing in the modern family court.
“The 'best interests of the child' are 'paramount' which means that what the social workers say goes. If a social worker does not say what the management want then the social worker can be fired as had happened. There is no independence in the system and family ties carry no substantial weight.
“The Italian case is one about which more will be heard.”
Mr Hemming said local authorties were often under pressure to make quick decisions about foster placements and adoptions.
Earlier this year, Education Secretary Michael Gove, launched a drive to increase the number of children adopted. It came after official figures showed almost half of all councils were failing to meet basic targets for placing children with adoptive parents.
He added: "The problem's been going on for a long time but it’s become an increasing problem because of some of the changes brought in by the current government.”
When the police arrived at the Italian mother's hotel room last summer, they told her that they were taking her to hospital to “make sure that the baby was OK”.
The officers had spoken to the woman’s mother on the phone, who explained that she was upset she couldn’t find the passports for her two daughters, who were staying with her in Italy.
The grandmother said she was probably stressed because she suffered from a “bipolar” condition and had not been taking her medication.
However, instead of taking the woman to hospital, officers delivered her to a psychiatric unit, where she was restrained and sectioned.
The baby girl, now 15 months old, is still being looking after by social services, who are refusing to give her back to her mother. The woman has launched a legal battle to return her daughter.
In what has turned into an international legal row, lawyers for the woman have publicly questioned why her family in Italy were not consulted beforehand and why social services insisted on keeping the child in Britain despite an offer from a family friend in America to care for her.
Under British law, a child should be adopted by members of their wider family wherever possible but social services ruled an aunt of the baby’s stepsister, an American resident, could not look after her because there was no “blood tie”.
Shami Chakrabarti, director of human rights organisation Liberty, described the case as “the stuff of nightmares”.
She said: "Please God there's more to this, but at first blush this is dystopian science-fiction unworthy of a democracy like ours. Forced surgery and separation of mother and infant is the stuff of nightmares that those responsible will struggle to defend in courts of law and decency.
A spokesman for Essex county council said the local authority could not comment on ongoing cases.