Page last updated at 14:11 GMT, Wednesday, 14 January 2009

Plea to stop family's deportation

Cecilia Maqsood with her children and friends
Cecilia Maqsood and family are members of a Catholic church in Tenby

Friends of a family facing deportation to Pakistan have started a campaign to try to keep them in Wales.

Cecilia Maqsood and her family moved to Pembrokeshire legally three years ago after she had a job as a care home nurse in Saundersfoot.

She claims she was persecuted in Pakistan because of her Christian beliefs but now faces a return after her work permit extension was refused.

The Home Office said all applications are considered on merit.

Mrs Maqsood said she and her family did not travel to Wales as asylum seekers because she said they wanted to pay their own way.

But they are afraid of facing religious persecution back in Pakistan.

"It's a very worrying time for me and my family," said Mrs Maqsood, whose family has integrated into the community in Amroth and are members of he St Teilo's Catholic church in Tenby.

"It's hard for Christians [in Pakistan] and I faced persecution there so I'm very scared to go back and I don't want it to repeat again.

They really are a lovely, lovely family - very, very hard working and this is so sad
Dee Groom, neighbour

"I was feeling isolated there and I feel at home [in Pembrokeshire]."

Mrs Maqsood travelled to Pembrokeshire alone in 2006 on a three-year work permit after working in Pakistan for more than 15 years as a midwife.

Her husband and three daughters aged 13, nine and five, followed 14 months later and her husband took a job as a carer in the same care home as his wife.

When Mrs Maqsood's work permit ran out, her employer applied for an extension for her as a senior care worker, but - since changes were made to the rules for senior care workers - the job no longer met the criteria required.

She enrolled at Pembrokeshire College as a full-time English student - financed by herself and her church - to improve her English, and was advised to apply instead for a student visa, but this has now also been refused.


Friends and neighbours and Nick Ainger MP are now campaigning to try and keep the family in the country.

Parishioners at their church have started a petition and the children's primary school has also given the family a reference.

Alf Groom, who lives in the flat beneath the family's, said he and the family had a "lovely relationship" and the children call him "granddad".

"As they come from school they come in and wait for the family," he said.

"I would absolutely be devastated and it would be an injustice that a family so hard working and the children are getting on so well at school and they show me their results and markings from their books."

The Home Office brought in the changes to work permit regulations more than a year ago to protect employment opportunities for resident workers.

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said: "All applications for leave to remain in the UK are considered on their merits, in accordance with the immigration rules and taking into account all available evidence.

"We wouldn't remove anyone who has an outstanding application or ongoing appeal."

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