The Home Office has been criticised for attempting to separate an elderly couple from their British family by forcing them to return to Iran.
Mozaffar Saberi, 83, and his wife Rezvan Habibimarand, 73, have lived in Edinburgh on and off over the past 40 years. They brought up their children in the Scottish capital and now have a close-knit family of four children, 11 grandchildren and a great-grandchild.
They also act as co-parents for one of the grandchildren, a teenager with severe autism who does not speak and requires constant supervision. “Their help means the boy’s mother – a single parent – can continue her work as an NHS nurse”, reports The Scotsman.
Although the rest of the family is British, the couple “never sought citizenship and now face removal because they do not have the required visa”, adds the paper. Repeated human rights applications to remain in the UK have been refused by the Home Office and a final appeal is due to be heard next month.
“Going back to Iran would be the end for us,” Habibimarand told The Guardian. “We have so many illnesses that it would not just be physically the end for us, because there is not the level of healthcare we need in Iran, but emotionally the end too: there’s no one in Iran for us to go back to.”
Navid Saberi, the couple’s son, added: “With no exaggeration, sending them back to Iran would be a death sentence. The day-to-day help and support my siblings and I give our parents isn’t available to be purchased in Iran, even if we could somehow get the necessary money into the country – which is not at all guaranteed because of the sanctions. The distress of having to live alone would mean my parents’ end would come very soon.”
John Vassiliou, a partner at McGill & Co Solicitors, also told The Guardian: “The Home Office does not give any weight to the relationships with their adult children and contrary to the conclusions of the independent expert, and without so much as an interview with any member of the family, took the view that their autistic grandson could adapt to their absence.
Tottenham Labour MP David Lammy tweeted his support for the couple: “This 83-year-old and 73-year-old Iranian couple who bought their Edinburgh flat in 1978 and help care for their autistic grandson are being kicked out of the UK. I dream of the day the Home Office treats individuals as humans.”
A spokesperson for the Home Office said: “All UK visa applications are considered on their individual merits, on the basis of the evidence available and in line with UK immigration rules.”