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Campaign grows to help Pakistani family

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By Fiona Reid
Dumfries and West
Campaign grows to help Pakistani family

YEARS of uncertainty could soon be over for a Dumfries family fearful of being sent back to Pakistan, thanks to the launch of a petition.

Muhammad, Razia, Fatima and Saira Saleem are appealing to their friends and neighbours to help fight for their right to stay in the UK and their home of Dumfries and Galloway, where they have lived for 13 years.

Dad Muhammad first moved to Great Britain in 2005 on a work permit, with his family joining him a year later.

They initially lived in Lockerbie, where daughters Fatima and Saira attended Lockerbie Academy, before moving to Dumfries.

But the family’s life was put on hold in 2015 following a late visa application.

Muhammad said: “Due to reasons out of our control, the Home Office wants to send us back to Pakistan despite having lived here all these years, only because we applied for one of our visas late, which was not our fault.”

Now the family are unable to hold down jobs or claim benefits and Saira’s studies to become a doctor have been put on hold making their lives an uphill battle and making them feel permanently at risk of losing their home, which family and friends help to pay rent for.

Muhammad added: “We’ve now been in Dumfries and Galloway for over 13 years and consider this to be our home.

“We want our neighbours’ support in any way they can to show that we have truly integrated in Dumfries and Galloway.”

And this week an online petition, through change.org, was started by local journalist Amanda Kennedy, who went to school with Saira.

She said: “Saira and her sister Fatima were both extremely kind, thoughtful and hard working members of the Lockerbie Academy community.

“It’s horrible to hear how much uncertainty their family are facing and have been enduring for the past three years.”

She added: “I’m really pleased to see that in less than 24 hours over 150 people have signed the petition but it’s still not enough.

“Hopefully by the end of the week there will be 1000 signatures.”

So far various applications to remain have been turned down, but the family is currently working with Glasgow based solicitor Usman Aslam, who is appealing to the Home Office.

Mr Aslam, of McGlashan MacKay Solicitors, specialises in helping families facing removals, reuniting those who have been torn apart by war and assisting people who want to settle in the UK with family or to study.

He said: “We took the case on in 2016, when the family approached us. They were very distraught by the prospects of being sent to Pakistan. We sympathise with these kind of cases.”

Explaining further, he added: “For reasons unknown, a previous representative, according to the Saleem family, didn’t submit their application for Indefinite Leave to Remain in time, therefore they were regarded since then as overstayers – they have been trying to rectify that since then.”

The solicitor is encouraging the Saleem’s friends and neighbours to back their bid to stay in Dumfries and Galloway by signing the petition.

He added: “There comes a point where the Home Office should exercise discretion more carefully.

“Here is a family that would have had Indefinite Leave to Remain, now known as Settlement in the UK, but for a simple mistake by a previous representative.

“Therefore they were on course to be here, so it is disproportionate to just treat them as if they haven’t been here for long. Dumfries and Galloway is their home.

“We have to imagine what it would be like to live somewhere for 13 years, make it your home then be told you have to leave. That’s why we fight for such people.”

To sign the petition visit: hhttps://www.change.org/p/help-keep-the-saleem-family-in-britain-where-they-belong?recruiter=72991845&utm_source=share_petition&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=undefined&utm_term=Search%3ESAP%3EUK%3ENonBrand-Tier%201%3ECreation%3EExact

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