PMQs: Family facing deportation ‘too fearful’ to go to Westminster

Teenage brothers Soma and Areeb Ameed are facing deportation with their family. Picture: John Devlin
Teenage brothers Soma and Areeb Ameed are facing deportation with their family. Picture: John Devlin

A Christian family who face being deported to Pakistan where their lives would be in danger were too fearful to travel to Westminster to hear their case being raised with the Prime Minister, it has emerged.

Glasgow North East MP Paul Sweeney has appealed on behalf of the Umeed Bakhsh family, who have been refused asylum despite regular persecution of Christians in Pakistan under the country’s blasphemy laws.

The family, who have lived in the UK for six years while waiting for their case to be dealt with, had been invited to sit in the public gallery of the House of Commons.

They declined out of fear they could be detained by immigration officers even on a domestic flight, it is understood.

Maqsood Bakhsh, an elder in the Church of Scotland and Parveen Umeed, a qualified midwife who is unable to work in the UK, fled Pakistan in 2012 after two church leaders were shot dead by militants in the Pakistani city of Faisalabad.

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Their sons Somer, 15, and Areeb, 13, are pupils at Springburn Academy and have won awards for academic excellence. Somer hopes to study astrophysics at Glasgow University.

At PMQs, Theresa May said she would “ensure that the Home Office looks again at this case”.

Mr Sweeney said: “For all of the attention which this case has attracted in the past few months, including a personal visit to the family by Jeremy Corbyn, there has been precious little progress made by the authorities.

“Putting to one side the very real dangers which the Bakhsh family face if they were ever to return to their native country, I find their treatment by Home Office officials in this country unacceptable.

“Only last week Rev Linda Pollock, the minister of Possilpark Parish Church, was turned away from a meeting at Brand Street and not permitted to chaperone the family which she and her congregation have been supporting, while doubt was also cast on her credentials as a minister of the Kirk.

“The Bakhshs have established a family life in Scotland and are an integral part of our community. It is inhuman to expect them to continue to live at the whim of Home Office officials.”

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Rev Pollock said: “The story of this family has touched the hearts of nearly 93,000 people who have signed two petitions to let the UK Government know how upset they are that they are being treated so dispassionately.

“It is very heartening that so many people agree that it would be an utter travesty if two naturalised Scottish boys, who have so much to give to our country, were deported to a foreign land that is alien to them.

“We ought to be nurturing these youngsters, who still have so much to offer our community, not placing them in an unbearable situation where they are publicly begging for life.

“It feels as if Somer and Areeb are being treated not as boys, alive with hopes and dreams, but as numbers on a list.

“I hope that the Prime Minister and the Home Secretary will share the wisdom, compassion and good sense of all those who have signed the petitions to keep them in Glasgow where they belong.”