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Visa denials spoils family festive visits

PUBLISHED: 16:05 17 December 2009 | UPDATED: 14:49 24 August 2010

FAMILIES are devastated by their loved ones living abroad being denied permission to visit them over the festive season, writes Sofia Mitra-Thakur. Brent residents spoke of their anguish when immigration officials turned down visa requests for their rela

FAMILIES are devastated by their loved ones living abroad being denied permission to visit them over the festive season, writes Sofia Mitra-Thakur.

Brent residents spoke of their anguish when immigration officials turned down visa requests for their relatives in Pakistan to visit for special occasions, like religious festivals or weddings, with little or no explanation why.

Mohammed Adil told The Times about his son Roger's mother-in-law Farahat Safdar, a widow of an army brigadier in her 60s who has regularly visited her daughter and young grandchildren in Brondesbury Park, but was recently refused permission to visit the family over the festive period.

Mr Adil said: "We were shocked because it was the first time since 1977 that her visa was rejected and we don't know why. We don't understand it and the kids are very upset they won't see their grandmother over the holidays."

The upset comes as recent figures from the Home Office reveal that the number of Pakistan family visit visa applications rejected by the government outstrips that of other nationalities, with 41 per cent of visas refused last year.

Bangladesh comes second at a 31 per cent refusal rate, Sri Lanka at 17 per cent and India with a mere 14 per cent. The average refusal rate for all nationalities is 24 per cent.

Mohammed Sadeeq, chairman of Brent Mosque, said: "We don't know why this is happening, but if you compare the 41 per cent refusal rate for Pakistanis to the 14 per cent for Indians. It's not fair."

Lib Dem MP for Brent East Sarah Teather believes the figures reveal government prejudice towards Pakistanis. She wants the government to take a closer look at the refusal rate and has handed a petition to the Home Office calling for 'a fairer family visas system with a proper appeals process.'

She said: "People naturally want to spend important occasions like weddings, funerals and birthdays with their close family around them, and it causes distress when the government deny people the support of family when they most need it.

"I would encourage any constituents who have experienced problems to contact me in my constituency office for help."

Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, said: "We do not discriminate against any individual nationality, to suggest otherwise is false. Applications from Pakistan are assessed in the same manner and against the same immigration rules as applications from every other nationality.

"It is the responsibility of the applicant to ensure they meet these rules and provide evidence to support their application. Any person who has been refused a family visit visa may have the right to appeal.


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