Joy as teenage asylum seeker brothers released from “psychological prison”

Cropl-r somer and areeb

Somer and Areeb.

“They are so imaginative and creative, I see no limits for them”

Graham Martin's photo

16th August 2019 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

Teenage asylum seekers described as a credit to Scotland are celebrating after being finally liberated from their “psychological prison” and set free.

Brothers Somer Umeed Bakhsh, 16, and 14-year-old Areeb have spent most of their lives living in fear that they could be forced out of their home in Glasgow and deported to Pakistan where they would be at risk.

But they have now been granted “limited leave to remain” in the UK until February, 2022.

The Home Office decision, which also applies to their parents, Maqsood and Parveen, hopefully signals the beginning of the end of a seven and a half year struggle for the Christian family.

It is the result of a high profile Church of Scotland campaign, which led to more than 94,000 people signing two online petitions which urged the UK Government not to deport the brothers to their birth country.

The family fled to Glasgow in 2012 from Faisalabad after Mr Umeed Bakhsh was subjected to death threats from Islamic extremists due to his Christian faith.

They were repeatedly denied asylum and the parents were prevented from earning a living, despite the fact that he is a trained data analyst and she is a midwife.

Somer, who got four As and a B in his Highers and aspires to be an astrophysicist, said: “We have gone through a tough time and I am really happy that we now have the freedom to stay in the country we love.

“I feel like a weight has been lifted off my shoulders because the threat of deportation was always in the back of my mind.

“Scotland is my home, I have grown up here, all my friends are here and I feel like a Scottish boy.

“I am very thankful to everyone who has supported my family and the people who signed the petitions - we could not have got to this point without you.

“But I am disappointed that we will have to apply to the Home Office for an extension in just two and a half years.”

The process to secure permanent leave to remain will likely cost the family tens of thousands of pounds.

Somer, who is now in sixth year at Springburn Academy and studying three Advanced Highers, said he was hopeful that he will be accepted to the University of Glasgow next year.

Areeb, who is in fourth year at the same school and studying seven National 5s exams, said he was “overwhelmed” by the news.

Mr and Mrs Umeed Bakhsh will soon be granted work permits and have the opportunity to drive and take their sons on holidays aboard.

The family, who are now seeking new accommodation, are active members of Possilpark Parish Church in Glasgow.

Their minister, Rev Linda Pollock, has led the campaign to stop them being deported to Pakistan where blasphemy carries the death penalty.

Christian friends of Mr Umeed Bakhsh were murdered in 2010 which was the catalyst for his decision to flee with his family to the UK.

Rev Pollock said: “I am relieved and feel deep joy that this decision has been made because these youngsters have been living in a psychological prison and in bondage for too long.

“They are brave, inspirational, compassionate, intelligent, well rounded boys who have experienced sorrow and heartache.

“But through all of this they have maintained their dignity and integrity which has not been easy.

“Going forward I would say look out world, this family are going to do something wonderful.

“Don’t be surprised if Somer becomes the first Scottish astronaut with Areeb standing behind him ready to fill in.

“They are so imaginative and creative, I see no limits for them.”

Family friend, Rev Dr Martin Johnstone, secretary to the Church and Society Council of the Church of Scotland, said the news was “enormously welcomed.”

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon described the brothers as a “credit” to Scotland and Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn urged the Home Office to grant the family leave to remain.

Scotland’s communities secretary Aileen Campbell also made representations on their behalf.