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Last Updated: Thursday, 21 September 2006, 08:10 GMT 09:10 UK
Short reprieve for asylum seekers
Masih and Christine Raymond
Masih and Christine Raymond said they will not return to Pakistan
Two Pakistani asylum seekers who sought sanctuary inside a Glasgow church to avoid deportation have been granted a short reprieve.

Masih, 49 and Christine Raymond, 45, have lived in the city for 18 months.

As Catholics, they fled Pakistan after Masih claimed he was detained and beaten. They have been refused asylum.

Their parish priest said immigration officials had told the Raymonds, who missed a flight to Pakistan, that they could spend Wednesday night at home.

The couple had been told to report to Glasgow Airport at 1945 BST on Wednesday for a flight to Lahore.

The Pakistan consulate general in Glasgow said they had nothing to fear in returning to the country.

However they claimed they face death if they are sent back to Pakistan, and instead sought sanctuary at St Patrick's Church in Anderston.

Their contention something bad would happen on their return is not one I share
Shah M Jamal
Pakistan Consulate General

Christine Raymond said: "I am so depressed, it is horrible and we are both upset.

"We can't go, there is no choice. We have not slept for three nights, we are not going to Pakistan."

Father Gerry Nugent, who has known the couple since they arrived in Glasgow, said he had welcomed them on humanitarian grounds.

He said: "They chapped my door and asked for help. I'm giving them a roof over their head, they are frightened and have nowhere to go.

"I am also scared and confused but I can't turn them away."

He added: "Hopefully someone will change their minds."

When he heard the couple were safe to spend Wednesday night at their Glasgow home, Fr Nugent said he would take the couple to see Mohammed Sarwar MP on Thursday.

His stance was backed by Archbishop Mario Conti, who faxed an urgent appeal to the home secretary, pleading for the deportation to be halted.

He said: "I salute Fr Nugent's principled stand and I support him and the Raymond family in their plight.

"I have spoken to the local MP and asked him to intervene and am writing to the home secretary as a matter of extreme urgency to have this dreadful decision overturned."

The Pakistan Consulate General in Glasgow, Shah M Jamal, said the couple would have received reassurances from his office.

He said: "Their contention something bad would happen on their return is not one I share.

"We have a large Christian community in Pakistan and they are thriving, they are doing wonderfully well.

"We have no role in the determination of their cases, it is decided on merit.

"It is a desperate attempt, places of worship are seen as the last refuge."

He said 200-plus families had gone back to Pakistan in the past year.

The Home Office said it does not comment on individual cases.

Hear more from Father Gerry Nugent

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