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Asian family who set up business face deportation

TWO ASIAN sisters and their brother who run a successful business in one of Scotland's unemployment blackspots, are facing deportation from Britain.

The Home Office said yesterday that they had failed to show they were capable of investing pounds 150,000 each, the sum required under immigration regulations that would allow them to remain in Britain.

The rigorous application of UK immigration laws which would mean Zambian-born sisters, Sophia and Rashida Mohamed, and their brother Muslim, having to find a total of pounds 450,000 to in effect buy their continued UK residence, has been branded as bureaucratic 'extortion' by a leading Scottish Conservative businessman.

Arthur Bell, chairman of the Scottish Tory Reform Group, who also serves on the board of the Lanarkshire Development Agency, has been supporting the Mohameds' case since the Home Office first indicated the family faced being deported after a final appeal failed in July this year.

Mr Mohamed, 28, came to the UK when he was 12 years of age, graduating in accounting and finance from Heriot Watt University in Edinburgh. His sisters came to Britain as visitors in 1989 and started a pickling business in Motherwell. The firm, Hawkins Foods, now employs five people.

Dierdre Haigh, the Mohameds' solicitor, from the Edinburgh firm of Shepherd and Wedderburn, admitted Sophia, 31, and Rashida, 40, had never extended their visitors' visas.

Mrs Haigh said that although an independent adjudicator heard the Mohameds' appeal and turned it down, no evidence had been heard and only recommendations were taken. Mr Bell, one of a number of witnesses lined up for the appeal, was not called.

Mr Mohamed's health is complicating the case. He has a rare liver and blood disorder which requires transfusions every fortnight. If he were sent back to Zambia - where treatment is not available - it would be 'like a death sentence', Mrs Haigh said.

The Home Office said the medical aspects of Mr Mohamed's case were 'being looked at and would be taken into account'. The case is in effect in abeyance until all medical evidence is examined. However, Mr Mohamed has said should he be allowed to remain and his sisters told to leave, then he would leave as well.

Their father, who holds a British passport but not one with automatic right of abode, came to Britain earlier this year from Zambia.

In February Mr Mohamed was given a settlement visa by the Home Office. He learned recently that his business in Zambia was earning no income and his home had been stripped. Mrs Haigh said: 'They really have nothing to return to. They have prepared a business plan for the Home Office which is a pounds 30,000 investment.'

Mr Bell said the Mohameds were being asked to leave the country by 'bungling bureaucrats who know nothing about economic growth. You don't invest pounds 450,000 in a small pickling business - you invest that sum in a chemical factory.' Letters of appeal from local MPs, both Conservative and Labour, have been sent to the Prime Minister.

(Photograph omitted)