Nicola Sturgeon backs bid to keep teenage asylum seekers in Scotland

L-R Abreeb, Right Rev Susan Brown, Rev Linda Pollock and Somer at the petition handover. Picture: Church of Scotland.
L-R Abreeb, Right Rev Susan Brown, Rev Linda Pollock and Somer at the petition handover. Picture: Church of Scotland.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has given her backing to a campaign to keep two asylum seekers who live in Glasgow from being deported from the country.

85,000 people have signed a petition protesting the deportation of Somer and Areeb Umeed Bakhsh, who are 15 and 13 respectively, to Pakistan, where they fear persecution due to their Christian faith.

At First Minister’s Questions, Ms Sturgeon pledged her support to a campaign being run by the Church of Scotland after being pressed by local MSP Bob Doris.

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The petition was started by Rev Linda Pollock of the Possilpark Parish Church in Glasgow, and was handed into the UK Governments Immigration Enforcement Reporting Centre in the city last month.

Ms Sturgeon said: “I am really heartened to hear how the community have rallied round the Bakhsh family and about the response to the Rev Pollock’s petition.

“I would also like to congratulate Somer and Areeb on what they have achieved in very, very difficult circumstances.

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“They are an absolute credit to their parents, their school, their community and indeed they are a credit to Scotland.

“The Scottish Government will continue to look at what appropriate representations we can make.”

The brothers and their parents, fled to Glasgow from in Pakistan after their father was subjected to death threats from Islamic extremists due to his Christianity.

Jeremy Corbyn met the two boys at their church in Possilpark last month and described them as “wonderful” with so much to offer their adopted home of Scotland.

Right Rev Susan Brown, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “The story of this family has touched the hearts of tens of thousands of people who want those in authority to know how upset they are that they are being treated so dispassionately.

“If more than 85,000 people are willing to welcome them, why on earth can’t the authorities?”