Page last updated at 20:56 GMT, Friday, 11 December 2009

Visa rules 'blocked our reunion'

By Dil Neiyyar
BBC News

Waheed Akbar and his nine-year-old son Zain
Mr Akbar could not understand why the visa was refused

Pakistanis top a table of nationals turned down for visas to visit the UK.

Forty one per cent of applicants for family visitor visas from Pakistan were rejected in the last year, according to Home Office figures seen by the BBC.

Concerns about immigration, people staying beyond their visas and in some instances even disappearing are thought to be behind the tougher controls.

But critics say many genuine people are not being allowed to visit their relations for important occasions like weddings and funerals.

The Akbars in Luton are one such family. Waheed Akbar's younger brother Jamil, 48, was married last year and he was able to travel to the wedding in Pakistan.

But the rest of his family were unable to accompany him because of work commitments and school, so he invited his brother to Britain.

Waheed said: "He just wanted to see his nephew. He was very attached to him and his nieces. My family was very excited that he was coming."

'Surprised'

But the application for a family visit visa was turned down. Waheed was puzzled, annoyed and upset by the decision, because Jamil has visited the family in Britain in the past.

"He applied and was refused and I was surprised because he had been in this country and he returned within the time limit and there was no problem," he said.

Anyone applying for a family visitor visa has to prove they have sufficient funds and appropriate accommodation to ensure that they do not become a burden on the state.

"I undertook everything and [said] that I would be supporting him and pay his fare and accommodation," he said. He also had a supporting letter from his local MP.

They should review this whole process. Make it more fair and equitable
Waheed Akbar

As a Luton councillor and former mayor of the town he believed he would be seen as a respectable member of the community and, as a result, his brother's visa application would be a formality.

"I was surprised because he was here before and he returned within the time limit and also I had very good background and I was not doing anything dodgy," he said.

"I assured them that he would be staying only a couple of months and he would be returning and he would not be taking anything from the state."

Waheed believes if someone with his background is turned down for a family visitor visa, then officials may be setting the bar too high.

"They should review this whole process. Make it more fair and equitable. That is my view and everybody from the Pakistan community has the same view," he said.

'Discrimination' claim rejected

This story has a sad ending because Jamil died last year. Waheed and his family are upset that they were denied one last chance to see him.

"My whole family was shocked. More because my children could not see him anymore," he said.

The Akbars' experience and those of other like them has prompted some to accuse the Home Office of unfair treatment of Pakistanis.

The Home Office has rejected accusations of discrimination and said it refused applications only when they were unsatisfactory.

Applicants must show they will leave the country when they are supposed to and have sufficient funds for their stay, it added.



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