Newham, London: The friends of Natasha – school students stop their friend being deported

Four children in black and white school uniform walk on a lawn in front of green bushes. Two of the children carry protest banners on sticks above their heads.
  Forest Gate School students march in a local park, protesting Natasha Matambile’s deportation. Still from Your Shout (Carlton TV, 1996) by kind permission of ITV.

When

1996 – 1997

Where

Forest Gate School, Newham, London

Year 7 students at Forest Gate School saw their friend Natasha Matambile crying. When they asked what the matter was, she told them she was being forced to leave the UK.

Natasha came from Angola which, at the time, was in the grip of a violent civil war. Natasha and her family had been forced to flee in 1991 after her father had been badly beaten and her four-year-old brother killed. They found safety in Newham.

However, without warning, the British government wanted to send the family back to Angola. Hurriedly, students started a campaign to keep Natasha in Newham – they had only two days.

If Natasha leaves our classroom will be silent. Natasha is part of our community – I can’t see why she has to leave us. We should all have the chance to live in safety with our families. Refugees like Natasha have already suffered enough – why should we make them suffer more?

Shamima Patel, friend of Natasha Matambile, 1996
    Clip from Your Shout(Carlton TV 1996) about the Forest Gate students’ campaign to help Natasha stay in Newham. 
By kind permission of ITV Studios.

Two hundred students marched in the local park and managed to get 800 signatures on a petition. They contacted their MP and the Home Office. Their speedy efforts delayed the deportation by a few weeks. Eventually, after students put pressure on Newham Council and the government, Natasha and her family were granted the right to stay permanently on 1 May 1997.

Colourful cuttings from local newspapers.
Television and local newspapers documented the students’ efforts to keep Natasha in Newham.
Still from Your Shout (Carlton TV, 1996) by kind permission of ITV studios.

We thought it was unfair that [Natasha] would have to leave her school and friends. We called ourselves The Friends of Natasha. We wanted to show that children like Natasha could depend on their school for support. I think this country should welcome people of all cultures, particularly if they are escaping danger at home.

Shamima Patel, friend of Natasha Matambile, 1996
A group of students all wearing school uniform look at the camera. A girl wearing a white headscarf and glasses stands at the front.
Television and local newspapers documented the students’ efforts to keep Natasha in Newham.
Still from Your Shout (Carlton TV, 1996) by kind permission of ITV studios.

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