A Christian mother battling deportation risks being killed if she is forced to return to her native Nigeria, campaigners have warned.

The stark warning came as Afusat Saliu, 31, was taken into custody by UK Border Agency staff yesterday, and she has been told she will be flown back to the African country tonight.

Ms Saliu fled to the UK in 2011 while she was heavily pregnant after her stepmother threatened to subject her daughter Bassy, now four, to female genital mutilation (FGM). Her second daughter, Rashidat, two, was born in London.

Ms Saliu - herself a victim of FGM - has said she fears her children will be cut and she will be forced to marry a man against her will if she returns to her native country.

More than 120,000 people have signed a petition calling for the Home Office to halt her deportation, but despite this border officials seized her and her two daughters yesterday afternoon and plan to put her on to a plane to Lagos at 10pm today, campaigners have claimed.

Anj Handa, a close friend, said the family face a multitude of dangers if they are forced to return to the country.

She said: "There is a risk of forced FGM on her two children if they are made to go back to Nigeria.

"Afusat is a victim of that herself. It is too late for her, but we have a four-year-old and a two-year-old and they are the 'right age' for cutting from her family's point of view.

"And she has talked about a potential forced marriage if she returns."

Since moving to Leeds three years ago Ms Saliu has converted to Christianity, and friends fear she will be targeted by the Islamic militants Boko Haram if she is deported.

The terror group has launched a string of atrocities in the country, including the abduction and holding hostage of around 250 mainly Christian schoolgirls in northern Nigeria.

Ms Handa said: "The worry is that she could be singled out. There is a real threat that her life could be in danger if she returns.

"Nigeria is really not a safe place to be sending any woman out to. The fact is she is a single mum, who can protect her?

"She is incredibly scared. She has tried to keep going but she is on anti depressants and is petrified of returning to Nigeria.

"We are calling on the Home Office to hear out the judicial review before they put her on that plane."

It is understood Ms Saliu was taken into custody with her two children and detained at a holding centre in Sheffield before being moved on to Cedars, a family immigration centre in Crawley, west Sussex.

Her solicitors BP Legal have launched a judicial review in a last-ditch attempt to keep her in Britain. And they have accused Home Office officials of ignoring their own guidelines by ordering her deportation before the review is heard.

Bhumika Parmar, her lawyer, said: "Normal practice is that once judicial review is issued, the Home Office rarely removes as a right to a fair hearing should be exercised.

"In fact, their own guidelines state that detention should be a last resort. We do not believe the Home Office have considered our client's application in respect of her humanitarian protection."

Figures have suggested as many as 66,000 women in England and Wales have undergone FGM and 23,000 girls under the age of 15 are at risk of it.

A Home Office spokeswoman said they do not comment on individual cases.

Ms Saliu's petition can be viewed at http://www. change.org.