WHEN she first reached secondary school age Bethlehem Abate feared she would be deported and was twice forced to spend time in a detention centre.
Yesterday she celebrated a day she thought she might never see as she picked up a haul of top GCSE grades and can now look forward to her future.
Bethlehem – known as Betty – was awarded A grades in maths, art and design, English literature, English language, additional and core science and French along with two Bs and a pass in an OCR qualification at Bruntcliffe High School in Morley, Leeds.
“I’m so, so happy because I did much better than I expected,” she said. “I wasn’t predicting as many A grades so it was a big relief when I opened my results.”
The teenager was granted permission to stay in the UK with her mother in 2009.
Betty and her mother Elsa Temesgen had been threatened with deportation the year before when the Government refused to grant them asylum after they fled domestic violence in Ethiopia in 2004.
Twice, in September 2008 and January 2009, immigration officers raided their home and on the last occasion were all set to put them on a plane to Addis Ababa.
The pair spent five days in Yarls Wood Detention Centre in Bedfordshire awaiting deportation, while, after hearing about their struggle to stay in the UK, their local community, Betty’s school, their church and MP Hilary Benn, rallied to help them fight to stay in the country.
Betty said: “It was a very difficult time for me and my mum and I don’t know how we would have coped if it hadn’t been for the support we had. We can now stay in the UK and I can go on to get a job and live here permanently.
“We are so happy that we can do that and now we can put it behind us and live our lives. We were very touched at how much people supported us and we won’t forget it. We are forever grateful.”