News, Culture & Society

Home Office make a U-turn on deporting an Afghan teacher’s family

An Afghan supermarket employee whose wife and son faced deportation has won a reprieve after customers in the Co-op where he works complained in their droves.

Former teacher Hassan Bamyani, 49, was forced to leave Afghanistan in 2001 as his life was in jeopardy because he taught girls as well as boys, contrary to Taliban doctrine.

He fled to Oxford, drawn to the city for its reputation for education and became a British citizen, and in 2012 his wife Sohaila and son Muslem, now aged 23, joined him after living in Iran.

During their separation of more than a decade, Mr Bamyani consoled himself by writing love poems, which he has performed in public to rapturous audiences.

The family are from the Hazara community, an ethnic minority which has been victim to massacres by both the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

Customers at the east Oxford Co-op where Hassan Bamyani, 49, works have helped keep his wife and child in the UK after a massive campaign involving hundreds of shoppers

They were reunited and granted a visa extension in 2014 – but in October 2017, the Home Office refused to extend it.

This meant Sohaila and Muslem faced being sent back to Afghanistan while Mr Bamyani, who as a British citizen can stay.

A massive campaign was launched by customers of Mr Bamyani, who works in a Co-Op supermarket in east Oxford, to object to the prospect of the family being split up once more.

Funds were raised to pay for their legal fees, and an immigration judge deemed the Home Office decision was ‘illogical’ as the family had been given permission to stay in 2014.

It was said that returning to Afghanistan would present ‘insurmountable obstacles’ for family life and nothing had changed.

Mr Bamyani said: ‘I would like to extend my heartfelt thanks to everyone in the community who reached out to support my family so generously during this difficult time.’

He previously said: ‘The situation in Afghanistan is extremely unstable with many terrorist atrocities and civil war and suicide bombings a regular occurrence.

‘My wife has been greatly traumatised by the persecution she suffered in both Afghanistan and Iran and because she was separated from me and had to survive alone.’

Letters were sent in hordes to Annelise Dodd, MP for East Oxford.

Mrs Bamyani, who married her husband 32 years ago, did not pass the Life in the UK Test which is required to claim a spouse visa, along with a language test, having been dogged by depression and anxiety caused by the hardships of her life.

Lawyers argued that the family should be allowed to stay together under Article 8 of the Human Rights Act – the right to family and private life.

Adam Jackson, who represented the family, said: ‘It was distressing to see Sohaila and Muslem being denied permission to remain in the UK, with Hassan who is a British citizen.

‘The family are an integral part of the local community and it was uplifting to receive so many letters of support.

‘The immigration judge recognised that the Home Office refusal was a serious breach of the family’s right to family life and allowed the appeal on this basis.

Close friend James Attlee said the family could now focus on living their lives.

He said: ‘It was very encouraging to see the community response, it was a handful of us who began the campaign but it just went viral very quickly.

‘Part of it was very much down to Hassan’s personality and the fact he is well-known in the community, working in the local Co-op.

‘Also his poetry really touched people – it’s very powerful.

‘When we did the poetry reading event we had to turn people away.

‘I think it became a symbol of everything that seems to be going wrong at the moment with communities being divided, but this was a chance to show ours is not.’