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Scottish Refugee Council chief ‘relieved’ after Home Office’s visa U-turn

Sabir Zazai’s father Mohammad Zahir Zazai will now be able to see him receive an honorary doctorate – and meet his grandchildren for the first time.

Sabir Zazai is being awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Glasgow (Danny Lawson/PA)
Sabir Zazai is being awarded an honorary doctorate by the University of Glasgow (Danny Lawson/PA)

The Home Office has reversed its decision to refuse a visa for the father of the Scottish Refugee Council’s chief executive, meaning he can now see his son receive an honorary doctorate.

Sabir Zazai is being awarded an honorary doctorate from the University of Glasgow in recognition of his services to civil society over the last 20 years.

He feared his father Mohammad Zahir Zazai, who lives in Afghanistan, would not be able to attend the ceremony next month after the Home Office refused his application for a visitor visa.

Mr Zazai said the Home Office has now reviewed and overturned its decision, meaning his father can visit Glasgow and attend the ceremony and meet his grandchildren for the first time.

He said: “I left my family in Afghanistan 20 years ago in search of safety.

“This is a huge moment for me to be reunited with my dad on such a special occasion and for him to see my children for the first time.

“I’m relieved that humanity prevailed in this decision and that someone somewhere in the Home Office understood that behind every ‘case’ are individual families and the ties that bind parents and children are the same no matter what part of the world we are from.”

He added: “I believe so strongly that humanity needs to be built into the decision-making process throughout the asylum and immigration system.

“I’ve been overwhelmed by the support and solidarity people have shown me and am very grateful for it.

“But immigration and asylum decisions are so important and affect people’s lives so deeply that the system should not be dependent on public and media intervention.”

We look forward to welcoming Sabir, his father Mohamed and family to the university Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon called the original decision “shameful and utterly inexplicable” earlier this month and said Communities Secretary Aileen Campbell MSP had written to the UK Immigration Minister Caroline Nokes asking her to look into the case.

Professor Sir Anton Muscatelli, principal and vice-chancellor of the University of Glasgow, said:  “We are delighted the Home Office has reversed its earlier decision and that the father of Sabir Zazai will now be able to join us at the University of Glasgow to watch his son being conferred with an honorary doctorate for services to civil society.

“We look forward to welcoming Sabir, his father Mohammad and family to the university.

“Graduations are always a great family occasion, when we welcome visitors from around the world to Scotland to watch their loved ones become Glasgow graduates.”

The Home Office said all UK visa applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with UK immigration rules and guidance.

A spokesman said: “We have been in touch with Mr Zazai’s sponsor to gather further information regarding the application.

“As a result, we have reviewed our decision and will be issuing Mr Zazai with a visa.”

The Scottish Refugee Council welcomed the news.

Its chairman Peter Lloyd said: “I am so pleased that the Home Office has overturned this decision and delighted for Sabir and his family.

“I am glad that wiser counsel has prevailed.”

PA

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