Socialist Worker

A community rallies to stop deportations

The government wants to send members of the Sajid family back to Pakistan.

Issue No. 1961

Friends and neighbours of the Sajid family join the sponsored walk against their deportation  (Pic: Michelle Maddison)

Friends and neighbours of the Sajid family join the sponsored walk against their deportation (Pic: Michelle Maddison)

IMMIGRATION officers dragged a Pakistani family from the community that they had made their home as part of an attempt to deport them.

Raheela Sajid was snatched from her home, and her children, 14 year old Mohammad and 11 year old Shataj, were dragged from their schools on Friday 8 July.

Raheela and her two children Mohammad and Shataj fled to Britain in 2002 after she had suffered horrific abuse at the hands of her husband. They settled in the South Bank area of Teeside in north east England and became a part of the local community.

They are now being held in Yarlswood detention centre awaiting their fate. Raheela is struggling to sleep because of her fear at being sent back to Pakistan.

The brutal treatment of the Sajid family has created a storm of protest in their local area. Many local people have launched a campaign for them to be returned to the community.

Darren Stubbs, a young friend of Mohammad’s, organised a sponsored walk for the family last week. Darren said, “We were walking for around six hours and had a banner saying we want the family to be allowed to stay.

“I was really shocked when I heard what happened to Mohammad when he was taken from school by the immigration people. He is very scared about what will happen to

his family.”

Mohammad’s friends hope to present him with the banner if he is allowed to return to Teeside.

After visiting the family at Yarlswood Darren said, “We didn’t talk much about what had happened because they wanted to keep their minds off it. They were glad people were helping them, though.

“I thought it was a disgrace British people can treat people like that. Dogs live in better conditions.”

Brenda Urwin, the head teacher of Cromwell Road primary school which Shataj attends, told Socialist Worker, “I knew about a week in advance that the immigration officers would be coming at some time, but I didn’t know exactly when.

“Then we got a telephone call to say that they would be there in 15 minutes. They arrived in ten.

“My deputy collected Shataj and her belongings from the class and took her to a separate room. There was a social worker and an immigration officer there. Shataj wasn’t allowed to say goodbye to her friends.

“Nobody would tell Shataj what was happening and they didn’t allow my deputy head to explain either. She was then put into the back of a car and people had to sit either side of her.

“She was taken to the police station car park then frisked and shut in a cage in the back of the van. She was distraught. My deputy head had to reach through the bars in an attempt to comfort her.

“Her brother Mohammad was frisked in front of his classmates. ­Immigration officers searched Raheela and removed her Koran from her. She was screaming.

“It was eventually explained what was happening. Then another van arrived with their belongings and they were all taken to the detention centre.

“They were put on the plane to ­Lahore the next day, but the family’s solicitor managed to get them off ­before the plane took off.

“I have spoken to the family on the telephone and they are not doing too well. A group of Mohammad’s friends visited them there.

“The local MP Vera Baird has

been fantastic. Both schools have written letters supporting the family. We are doing everything we can. We just want them released and sent back to the community. It has been

so horrible.

“The family have applied for a judicial review against their right to stay being refused. This could take four to six weeks. They don’t qualify for asylum because they are fleeing domestic violence.

“Raheela Sajid has a degree. She has been coming into the school to do Asian cooking with the children. Mohammad and Shataj are bright and doing well. They have fitted into the community really well.

“At first I was angry and upset about what was happening. But doing the campaigning work got my adrenaline flowing. Now we are waiting. We don’t want to lose momentum. It will be a real treat to get them back in the ­community.”

The local paper, the Evening ­Gazette, is supporting the family. It said, “Why do we treat families in this sort of situation in this way? They have been treated like terrorists. Yet they are innocents.”

Send messages of support for the Sajid family to Tony McNulty MP, immigration minister, c/o Direct Communications Unit, Home Office, 2 Marsham Street, London SW1P 4DF, or e-mail

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Sat 30 Jul 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1961
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