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Home sweet home

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By Abbey Morton
Front
Home sweet home

A SIX-year battle to stay in the UK has been won by a Dumfries family.

The Saleems, Muhammad, his wife Razia and two daughters Saira and Fatima, have been granted Leave to Remain (LTR) status by the UK Government.

Parents Muhammad and Razia came to the UK in 2005 and settled in Dumfriesshire, sending their daughters to Lockerbie Academy and working hard to become part of the community.

But in 2015 their life was put on hold due to a late visa application, which the Saleems say was because their representative didn’t file Indefinite Leave to Remain paperwork on time. As a result they were regarded as overstayers.

If the paperwork had been completed on time, the family would have had ‘Settlement’ in the UK due to their length of time here.

A lengthy legal battle ensued, and at one stage Muhammad was accused by the Home Office of cheating in an English language exam, and only Saira was granted a visa, with the rest of the family facing a move back to Pakistan.

The happy news came to the family on the first day of Ramadan, and Saira yesterday said: “It feels like it was a gift from god.

“When our lawyer, Usman Aslam, told us, we were too emotional to even speak.

“It still doesn’t feel real, it is like a dream.”

This week Mr Aslam criticised earlier moves by the Home Office and called the suggestion of splitting the family ‘ludicrous’.

He said: “When the case went before a judge and I presented the evidence to show that the allegation was just unfounded, the judge accepted that.

“The Home Office was of the view that the family could still be split but they have just, on Tuesday, reversed the view and reconsidered everything in light of the judge’s finding that there was no deception on the part of the family.

“It is wonderful news, after six and a half years.

“Families belong together at the end of the day.

“I don’t see what the Home Office or the Secretary of State would gain by splitting them up.

“This means the world to the family, it means that they can have a place that they call home.

“For me, it’s a reminder why we have to stand up for people in what can be a very hostile environment.”

The Saleems have praised Mr Aslam for his unwavering support, help and encouragement.

Their fight came to public attention back in 2018, when former DNG Media reporter Amanda Kennedy, from Lockerbie, launched a petition to help.

Since then, it has garnered almost 145,000 signatures

And Amanda said: “I’m over the moon that every member of the Saleem family has now been granted Leave to Remain status.

“Dumfries and Galloway is their home and they deserve the peace of mind this visa will bring them.

“I am humbled by how many people signed the petition and pleased it was able to support their fight to get their visa status overturned.”

Life can now move on for the happy family and on the horizon is a university placement and employment. During their ordeal, Saira was the only one working and they relied on her wage from a job in retail.

Last year she secured a place at the University of Strathclyde to study psychology, but later applied for and got ‘voluntary suspension’ to give her a gap year until this September.

She is looking forward to attending in a few months time and her sister, Fatima, and father are both now searching for jobs.

The family said: “We would like to say thank you to everyone who has helped and supported us, all our friends, the Dumfries community and politicians.

“It means so much to us.

“Finally we can look forward to our lives.”

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