Joy as African mum is reunited with children

A CAMDEN Town mum is celebrating after being reunited with her children, who were separated from her for eight years

Ben McPartland

A CAMDEN Town mum is celebrating after being reunited with her children, who were separated from her for eight years.

Henrietta Bull left war-torn Sierra Leone in 1999 and set up a new home in Royal College Street, but immigration authorities refused to allow her two children to join her.

The trained nurse fought the decision determinedly, and is now ecstatic at hearing they are to live together again under the same roof.

"I couldn't believe it when I got the message they were coming. I was waiting for news nearly every day," said Ms Bull.

"I was overjoyed, I just said thanks be to God."

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Ms Bull originally applied to the British High Commission in Sierra Leone's capital Freetown to get her 14-year-old daughter Anne Marie and 17-year-old son James safely into the UK.

But officials refused to believe she was their lawful mother. Eventually, Ms Bull was able to produce DNA evidence proving her maternity.

"It had been so stressful. I thought the application would be very easy. I nearly collapsed when they told me it had been refused. I couldn't go to work. I was so sad, I used to cry all the time," she said.

"I used to speak to my kids every day on the phone. I used to buy everything for them and send it back - clothes, shoes, toothpaste, soap."

But just in time for Christmas the two children, who were being cared for by their uncle, were granted the right to come to London and the family has been reunited after a long time apart.

When Ms Bull first arrived in England she came with one-year-old daughter Daisy, who was allowed to stay. But the other two children were not allowed to subsequently join their mother, because of problems with their birth certificates.

Ms Bull enrolled at Westminster Kingsway College and trained to become a nurse and also turned to the Camden Community Law Centre for help in gaining custody of her children.

Solicitor Samantha Hunt was the woman who took on the battle with the immigration authorities, and who is also celebrating this week.

She said: "When Henrietta first came in here she was in floods of tears all the time. There were problems with the birth certificate which made a case that should have been easy more complicated.

"This is exactly the kind of case which we like to take up. Although she was working here as a nurse, there is no way she could have afforded to pay a private solicitor.

"It was very important, especially for the son because when he turns 18 he no longer has the right to join his parents."

James is now set to follow in his mother's footsteps and enrol at Westminster Kingsway College to study computer programming, while Anne Marie is currently settling in at South Camden Community School.