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Bradford MP and community give backing to family’s plea to stay in UK
A Muslim missionary and his family who are facing deportation to Pakistan have won the support of a Bradford MP and hundreds of campaigners.
Supporters fear if Tanweer Akhtar, 47, and his wife and son are sent back, they could be imprisoned by the state authority and their lives could be at risk from persecuting extremist groups including the Taliban – because of their beliefs as members of the Ahmadiyya religious community.
The Akhtars were taken from their home at Sewell Road, Laisterdyke, on March 7 and are now being detained at immigration’s Yarl’s Wood Removal Centre in Bedfordshire.
A decision on their future is likely to be made in the next couple of days.
Since their detention began, a campaign backing their new asylum claim has been mounting support from the Bradford Ahmadiyya community, friends and acquaintances from Bradford Immigration and Asylum Support & Advice Network (BIASAN) and other advice groups.
Mr Akhtar came to the UK in 2010 on a student visa after his family were attacked in a street.
His youngest son, Usamah, 19, joined him a year later also on a student visa and Mr Akhtar’s wife, Samina, came into the country at the same time seeking asylum.
Bradford East MP David Ward said: “We are being bombarded with letters of petition and e-mails. There is huge support for Tanweer and his family and we are packaging all that information together to send to the Minister for Immigration. We are doing our utmost to protect them and to save their lives.”
Dr Mohammed Iqbal, president of the Bradford Ahmadiyya Community, said: “We are afraid of what would happen to them if they are deported and we need to continue to rally support from the whole of Bradford to keep them here safe.
“Tanweer is a larger than life character, full of energy and enthusiasm, always active in promoting our community, volunteering his services to other charities and groups and bridging gaps between different faiths across the city. He is the kind of citizen Bradford needs. Our hopes and prayers are with them for a happy outcome.”
Amanda Mortimer, of BIASAN, said the whole family would face religious persecution and “grave danger” if they were deported.
She claimed immigration officials had ignored a report on their own website stating that Ahmadis are “subject to the most severe legal restrictions and officially sanctioned discrimination” in Pakistan and that anti-Ahmadi laws have helped create “a permissive climate for vigilante violence against members of this community.”
“As a highly qualified missionary and preacher Tanweer is a high profile Ahmadi. He and his family therefore face a high degree of danger if returned to Pakistan. All who know Tanweer are well aware that his faith is so strong he feels compelled to preach its’ principles to all he meets,” she said.
A UKBA spokesman said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”