People from a Muslim minority group can now reunite with loved ones in the UK, after the Home Office accepts it wrongly rejected visa applications.
Ahmadis are persecuted in Pakistan, and authorities there do not accept the community as Muslim. This persecution is well-documented, and here in the UK, the Home Office recognises Ahmadis as refugees.
However, Ahmadis in the UK have endured long-term separation from their partners and families, because the Home Office was wrongly rejecting their visa applications.
The Home Office usually requires married couples to include their marriage certificate in an application for a UK spouse visa. But Ahmadis can’t get marriage certificates in Pakistan, as the authorities refuse to recognise their marriages.
The Home Office was fully aware of the persecution that Ahmadis face in Pakistan, and the fact that their marriages were not recognised. Despite this, they continued to refuse Ahmadis in the UK the right to reunite with their partners, because they couldn’t produce a document that doesn’t even exist.
It should have been quick and easy for the Home Office to update the policy on marriage certificates once the problem was pointed out. But the Ahmadiyya Muslim Association UK (AMAUK) raised the issue several times and got nowhere. In July 2021, they turned to us for help.
Sairah Javed, a solicitor here at JCWI, worked with barristers Eric Fripp and Qaseem Ahmed to write to the Home Secretary, setting out why the policy needed to change, and calling for a review of applications that had been rejected. After receiving no response, we sent 2 further letters, threatening to take them to court if necessary.
Finally, in October 2021, the Home Office accepted that they had made a mistake, and agreed to change the policy and review these applications. Thanks to this important change, an estimated 50 families will now have their wrongly rejected applications reviewed.
I didn’t see my wife for two years. I made five applications that were rejected – it was really frustrating. But now, finally, we are together again.
Mirza, whose was finally able to join his wife in the UK in November 2021, after the policy was corrected.
Families have been needlessly separated by this mistake. It shouldn’t have taken months of correspondence and threats of legal action to get the Home Office to fix their error. But with expertise and persistence, we managed to get the policy changed, to bring these families back together where they belong.