Head of Scottish Refugee Council’s father is banned from entering UK

Head of Scottish Refugee Council’s father is banned from entering UK from Afghanistan to see his son receive honorary doctorate and meet grandchildren for first time

  • Sabir Zazai is due to receive an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University 
  • He wanted his father Mohammed to come to the ceremony from Afghanistan 
  • The Home Office refused to issue Mr Zazai’s father a visitor’s visa for the event 
  • Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon urged the Home Office to reconsider  

The head of the Scottish Refugee Council’s father has been denied entry to the UK to see his son receive an honorary doctorate and meet his grandchildren for the first time.

Sabir Zazai, 44, is due to receive the award from the University of Glasgow for his services to civil society in the UK over the last 20 years.

Mr Zazai, the 2019 winner of the Lord Provost’s award for human rights, fled to the UK in 1999 to escape conflict in his home city of Kabul, Afghanistan.

The head of the Scottish Refugee Council, Sabir Zazai, 44, has been told his father will not be allowed into Britain to see him receive an award for his services to civic society in the UK over the past 20 years since he arrived in the country from his native Afghanistan

He lived in Coventry, West Midlands and was awarded a degree in human resource management and a masters in community cohesion management from Coventry University.

The father-of-three moved to Glasgow two years ago to take up the position as head of the Scottish Refugee Council.

But Mr Zazai has been left devastated after the Home Office refused his father’s visitor visa application.

His father Mohammed Zahir – who cannot speak English – received a letter from the Home Office confirming that his visitor visa application to the UK had been denied.

Mr Zazai branded the decision by the Home Office ‘cruel and inhumane’ and has ‘shattered’ the occasion which he was hoping to share with his family.

Mr Zazai’s father, Mohammed Zahir, 79, had previously visited the UK in 2011, but was denied permission to return in 2013

He said: ‘It’s sad for me and my family but it’s just an example of the Home Office separating loving families.

‘Many others live in silence in these situations.

‘I know many cases where people’s family members have been denied.’

Mr Zazai’s father, 79, last visited him in 2011 but has since been denied entry to the UK to attend his son’s graduation in November 2013 and from attending his 40th birthday.

The elderly grandfather has also missed his granddaughter’s fifth birthday and has only seen one of his grandchildren once when they were a new born.

Mr Zazai said: ‘This would have been the first time he’d seen my children.

‘We had plans to take him around Scotland and now it’s all been shattered by a cruel and very inhumane decision by the Home Office.’

Mr Zazai said the reason for the Home Office’s decision was because it doesn’t believe his father would return home to Afghanistan.

He said: ‘We included in the visa application everything about my dad’s connection to Afghanistan but they said he didn’t provide enough information about his connections with Pakistan.

‘Why should he prove his connection to Pakistan, that’s like someone from Scotland being forced to prove their connections to France or Spain.

Mr Zazai said the reason for the Home Office’s decision was because it doesn’t believe his father would return home to Afghanistan

‘Because of my background they’re discriminating against my children as well because of where their father’s from and they don’t have the right to have their father next to them.

‘I don’t think the Home Office has given any consideration to my situation and just given the standard response.

‘There’s no appeal rights for visitors’ visas either – it created a very hostile environment.

‘How long is this vicious circle going to continue.’

Mr Zazai does not think his father will make his ceremony on June 11.

He said: ‘I think with the Home Office I’ve very little faith in what they do.

‘I’ve been living here, paying taxes and I’m integrated but the Home Office hasn’t accepted me as a citizen by denying my family life and my children’s family rights.

‘It’s a blanket rejection machine and I hope my case will raise awareness of many others.’ 

Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon, pictured, condemned the Home Office decision and called on officials to allow Mr Zazai’s father attend the Glasgow ceremony

Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon described the Home Office’s decision as ‘shameful and utterly inexplicable’. 

Mr Zazai is due to pick up his honorary doctorate on June 11 at the University of Glasgow. 

She told the Scottish Parliament: ‘For those who know Sabir Zazai, they will know that he has made a significant contribution over 20 years in the UK in supporting refugees in communities,” said Ms Sturgeon.

‘Let me take the opportunity today to thank him for the contribution he makes to this country and I am delighted the University of Glasgow has also chosen to recognise that.

‘It is entirely natural that he would want to share this outstanding achievement with his father.

‘It’s quite hard to comprehend the disappointment that he must feel that his father’s visa has been refused.

‘I think that is shameful and utterly inexplicable, and I would call on the UK Government to reflect very carefully on it.’

She said Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP had written to UK Immigration minister (Caroline Nokes MP) to ask her to look into this case.

Labour MP Ged Killen, who raised the issue of Mr Zazai’s case in the House of Commons on Wednesday, tweeted: ‘The Home Office has got this badly wrong, but under the Tories it is incapable of acting with compassion or acknowledging mistakes.

‘I raised Mr Zazai’s case in Parliament yesterday and I will continue to fight to have this nonsensical decision reversed.’ 

The Home Office has said that it is urgently looking into the case and will be in touch with the applicant in due course


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