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First Minister Nicola Sturgeon offers support to teenage asylum seekers

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Author: www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk

Nicola Sturgeon has backed a campaign to stop the deportation of two teenage asylum seekers, describing the brothers as a “credit to Scotland”.

Somer, 15, and Areeb Umeed Bakhsh, 13, face being returned from Glasgow to Pakistan, where they fear for their safety.

They fled the country along with their parents in 2012 after their father was said to have received death threats from Islamic extremists due to his Christian faith.

A petition calling on the Home Office not to deport the boys started by Rev Linda Pollock of Possilpark Parish Church has been signed by more than 85,000 people to date.

Speaking at Holyrood, Ms Sturgeon said the Scottish Government would look at what could be done to ensure the boys can remain.

Maryhill and Springburn MSP Bob Doris raised the case during First Minister’s Questions.

The First Minister said: “I am very heartened to hear how the local community has rallied round the Bakhsh family and about the response to the Rev Pollock’s petition.

“I would also like to congratulate Somer and Areeb on what they have achieved in very, very difficult circumstances.

“They are an absolute credit to their parents, their school, their community and, indeed, they are a credit to Scotland.

“The Scottish Government will continue to look at what appropriate representations we can make.”

The petition was handed over to the UK Government’s Immigration Enforcement Reporting Centre in Glasgow two weeks ago.

The family moved to Scotland from Faisalabad after two men – friends of Mr Bakhsh – were gunned down outside a court while in police custody.

They were accused of writing a pamphlet critical of the Prophet Muhammad that flouted Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy law.

It is understood the UK Government has rejected the family’s plea for asylum largely because officials do not believe they would be at risk in Pakistan.

After the petition was handed over, a Home Office spokesman said the UK “has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and every case is assessed on its individual merits”.

Right Rev Susan Brown, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “The story of this family has touched the hearts of tens of thousands of people who want those in authority to know how upset they are that they are being treated so dispassionately.

“If more than 85,000 people are willing to welcome them, why on earth can’t the authorities?”

Source: https://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/uk/first-minister-nicola-sturgeon-offers-support-to-teenage-asylum-seekers-37313673.html

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