Author: Niamh McIntyre
Aisha was 17 when she got engaged to a British national in Pakistan. When she moved to the UK in 2014 aged 21, she had met her husband only once. “I thought we would have a nice relationship. I thought he would be my whole world,” she says.
But as soon as she was married her husband became a “psychopath”, she says. “He would shout and scream, if I touched anything he’d go crazy. He never punched me but he did hit me a couple of times.”
Her in-laws treated her like a slave, she says. “I was doing everything for them, I couldn’t go out, I was in the house all day cooking, ironing clothes, looking after children.”
The treatment continued for more than a year. “I needed help I couldn’t do anything for myself. I felt trapped, sometimes I felt ‘I’m going to kill myself. It’s enough I can’t live like this.’”
Then she was told that her father had had a stroke and was paralysed, and that she had to go back to Pakistan to see him. Once there, her in-laws abandoned her.
“They wanted me to stay in Pakistan until I couldn’t come back. There are no laws for women in Pakistan, I thought if I had to stay here I would die. If a young girl is divorced she can’t live her life there.”
Aisha sold some gold she had received for her marriage. She bought a ticket with the money and went back to her in-laws’ house. |But when she tried to return they abused her, she says.
“They were shouting and screaming at me, their behaviour was so so bad with me, my father-in-law kicked me. That’s when I decided to tell the police.”
The police were supportive and she received counselling and started work in customer services at a warehouse. “I was totally a changed person, my health started getting better, I started taking steps for myself,” she adds.
But it was only when she applied for indefinite leave to remain under the domestic violence concessions that she found out that her former husband had contacted the Home Office and her visa had been cancelled.
“They refused my application twice on what he said. They never gave me the chance to explain my situation,” she says.
Then, on the 8 November 2016 when she went to report to Home Office officials, she was told she was to be deported at 7pm that evening. “They told me I was going in two or three hours, I couldn’t believe it. It was the worst moment in my life. They allowed me to call my solicitor, I was so lucky.”
Ajid Miah, her solicitor, called a barrister, Lucy Mair, who had been preparing a judicial review of the case. But with time running out, Mair pulled over into a motorway service station and drafted the claim for judicial review and an emergency injunction to prevent deportation.
The judge accepted the basis of the judicial review: that the Home Office had reached unlawful conclusions on the evidence in Aisha’s case, and had accepted the claims of her abuser unquestioningly.
That was seven months ago, and Aisha remains in legal limbo, unable to work and dependent on her aunt for her day-to-day survival. “I’m just waiting now and I’m so scared,” she says.
I hope they will give me leave to remain. It’s been five years I’ve been living here, I cannot go back. I want to make use of this life now.’
She adds: “ I was 17 when he [her former husband] came in my life and I didn’t think about anyone else. I tried my best, but their behaviour was so so bad to me.”