Please don't send my friends to a war zone

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 This is my friend Wael, his wife, May, and their children Abeer and Ahmed.

 We met them through our swimming club where Abeer and my daughter were swimming competitively. They are a lovely, friendly, generous, knowledgeable family, and we spent many happy times together.

 They moved away to Chesterfield in 2015 when Wael got a new job, but in 2017, they returned to Kent. Although we were pleased to see them, I was horrified to learn that they were now classed as ‘illegal immigrants’ with no rights to work, no rights to claim benefits, and awaiting a decision on sending them ‘home’.

 They have no home apart from England.

  Wael comes from Iraq, where his father was tortured by Saddam Hussain’s regime and his brother was killed during the sectarian war. His remaining brothers live in fear. May is Palestinian, but as she was brought up in Egypt, she is not recognised by either as a citizen and so can’t get a passport. Abeer and Ahmed have been brought up and educated in the UK, and are both doing well at school, ready to contribute to the UK economy when they are old enough.

 Wael studied in England, and has a Masters degree from the University of Greenwich, as does May. They have lived in Britain since 2009. They own their own house, they have never claimed benefits, and they have always paid their taxes.  

 For most of his time in the UK, Wael has been on a ‘Tier 1 General’ visa for highly skilled migrants, and in July 2016 applied for indefinite leave to remain. However in October, he received the news that his application had been unsuccessful and was given just 14 days to leave the country. The company he was working for was forced to dismiss him (threatened with fines, and imprisonment for the managing director), and he is now living on his savings, waiting for the Home office to make a decision on his appeal.

 They have been waiting for 15 months now, unable to work, as they want to, unable to claim benefits (which they do not want to) and under threat of deportation. They came in to the country legally, so are unable to claim refugee status, and they cannot claim asylum as both Wael and May are apparently ‘too well educated’ so their chances of being granted asylum are low.

They are struggling to find people to talk to in the Home Office, and although the local MP has written on their behalf, the reply from the Home Office was that the case was ‘complex’ and they are no further forward.

I am embarrassed that this country is willing to treat people like this, not allowing them to work, and denying them any means to support their family. They tell me they feel like they are ‘infectious’ as no-one wants to/ is allowed to help them, and this makes me so sad. I started this petition as I wanted them to see that there are people out there who do care, and who recognise the contribution they can continue to make to our society if only the Home Office will allow them to stay.

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