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A kurdish mother who has been removed from the Westcountry by immigration officers is so distressed that she has tried to kill herself, a charity worker has claimed. Ruir Thaha, 31, and daughters Sabrin, 15, and 14-year-old Hannah have spent two nights in a detention centre near Gatwick Airport. They were taken from their home in Plymouth, where they have lived for three years, early on Thursday morning.

The family fled Iraq and applied for asylum in Britain to escape persecution. But now they have been told they will be deported to Germany within days. They had been due to leave the country yesterday, but have now been told they will not be flying until at least tomorrow.

Speaking from a detention centre near Gatwick, Sabrin said: "We did not even know who the officers were at first. They said we had to pack right away or they would take us in our sleeping clothes."

Jon McKenzie, of anti-racism charity The Monitoring Group, said the family were "distressed and distraught". He added: "We will do all we possibly can to make sure they stay in Plymouth. The family has already been through so much. Ruir took her girls away from Iraq to save their lives. And now she has tried to hang herself in the detention centre."

The Home Office says the Thahas' asylum application must be dealt with in Germany because the country was their first point of entry into Europe, before they came to the UK.