Home Office u-turn allows father of Scottish refugee council chief to visit Scotland

Sabir Zazai's father hoped to travel from Afghanistan to see his son receive an honorary doctorate.
Sabir Zazai's father hoped to travel from Afghanistan to see his son receive an honorary doctorate.
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The father of the chief executive of the Scottish Refugee Council has been granted a visa to see his son receive an honorary doctorate from the university of Glasgow after a Home Office u-turn.

Sabir Zazai hoped his father Mohammad Zahir, who lives in Afghanistan, would be able to attend the ceremony in June, but originally had his application turned down.

Today, the Home Office has announced that it has reviewed and overturned its own decision, meaning Sabir's father can now visit Glasgow and attend the ceremony.

Sabir said: "I left my family in Afghanistan twenty years ago in search of safety. This is a huge moment for me to be reunited with my dad on such a special occasion and for him to see my children for the first time.

"I'm relieved that humanity prevailed in this decision and that someone somewhere in the Home Office understood that behind every 'case' are individual families, and the ties that bind parents and children are the same no matter what part of the world we are from. I believe so strongly that humanity needs to be built into the decision-making process throughout the asylum and immigration system.

"I've been overwhelmed by the support and solidarity people have shown me and am very grateful for it. But immigration and asylum decisions are so important and affect people's lives so deeply that the system should not be dependent on public and media intervention."

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said: “We are delighted the Home Office has reversed its earlier decision and that the father of Sabir Zazai will now be able join us at the University of Glasgow to watch his son being conferred with an honorary doctorate for services to civil society. We look forward to welcoming Sabir, his father Mohamed and family to the University. Graduations are always a great family occasion, when we welcome visitors from around the world to Scotland to watch their loved ones become Glasgow graduates.”

Peter Lloyd, Chair of Scottish Refugee Council said: “I am so pleased that the Home Office has overturned this decision and delighted for Sabir and his family. I am glad that wiser counsel has prevailed.”

Mr Zazai was appointed as chief executive of Scottish Refugee Council in September 2017. He arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker in 1999, fleeing the conflict in Afghanistan. He was dispersed to Coventry, where he lived and became involved in local community initiatives.

From 2014, he led the Coventry Refugee and Migrant Centre, a charity that once assisted him through his own journey as a refugee. Prior to this, he managed the Migration Impact Fund in Coventry and led a major improving financial capability programme with Coventry Citizens Advice Bureau.

Read more: Inside Scotland’s first community sponsorship of a refugee family from Syria