Girl removed to Punjab finds there is no return: Adam Sage looks at the anguish faced by thousands of parents and finds that a charity seeking to reunite families is threatened by a cash crisis

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The Independent Online
TWENTY YEARS ago, Nirmal Kaur Bansal was taken by her father from their home in Birmingham and flown to Punjab in India.

Since then, her brother Jay, and mother, Gurmit Kaur, have devoted countless hours and energy in an attempt to get her back. They have met with nothing but rejection.

The family moved to Britain in 1967, settling in the Midlands. Nirmal and Jay started at primary school. A year later, their sister Jasbir was born.

But their parents' marriage was in difficulties, and ended in 1972 when their father, Surjit Singh, returned to India. Hours later, Jay realised that his sisters had also gone. His mother had not had time to get a court order.

'My mother has suffered ever since,' Jay said last week. 'I can forgive my father for leaving, but why spoil the lives of two young children?'

By 1979, his father was prepared to let the girls move back to Britain, and Jay was able to bring Jasbir home for the first meeting with her mother for seven years.

But the immigration authorities took an altogether harsher line with Nirmal. She had not been born in Britain and, by now, she had turned 18. There was no way she could come to Birmingham for more than a holiday, officials said. That she had been taken against her mother's wishes counted for nothing.

Jay has repeatedly petitioned the immigration authorities, as has his sister in Punjab but to no avail.

He finds the attitude particularly galling as he says that he knows of other families who have circumvented immigration law with arranged marriages.

In a letter to John Major, he said: 'I have never wanted to do anything underhand, I consider myself an upstanding and law- abiding citizen.'

Last week, Jay added: 'I appreciate that we need to have an immigration policy, but why can't I have my little peace of mind and my mother get her daughter back? It seems so unfair.'

(Photograph omitted)