Asylum-seeker feted by the Blairs still faces deportation from Britain

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Indy Politics

Farhat Khan will get the red carpet treatment today from Tony and Cherie Blair in recognition of her tireless community work - just 48 hours before she makes a last plea against deportation.

The 54-year-old Pakistani grandmother, who has already been honoured at a Buckingham Palace reception, has become a respected and popular figure in Manchester. She claimed asylum in Britain six years ago after fleeing a violent husband whose relatives had already made plans to marry off two of their youngest daughters to older men as soon as they reached puberty.

She has spent much of that time, during which her family has become a model of integration, battling the threat of deportation.

On Thursday, with memories of her trip to Downing Street still fresh in her mind, she will meet immigration officials for a final review of her case. Mrs Khan said last night that she feared for her life if she was sent home and would plead for mercy today not to the Prime Minister - but to his wife. "I would like to talk to Cherie Blair. As a mother, I'm sure she would she would understand my situation," she said. "My husband has made very clear that he would take his revenge if we went back. It's all about honour - he feels we have humiliated himby coming here without his permission."

Mrs Khan added that she feared for her daughters. "My biggest worry is what will happen to my young girls if I'm sent back," she said. "It's a different world there."

Mrs Khan worked with disadvantaged women in Pakistan for several Western agencies, including the Department for International Development. Her husband and his family could not accept a woman working in a non-traditional role, and soon their anger against her had turned to open violence.

Over 10 years, she said, they repeatedly beat her and her five children and subjected them to "mental and emotional abuse". Engagements were arranged by her husband's relatives for the youngest daughters, who were then aged just five and seven.

After receiving a British visa, Mrs Khan put the family on a flight to Heathrow, claiming asylum as soon as they landed. The Home Office accepted her case that they had suffered regular violence, but refused asylum on the grounds that her husband no longer lived in Pakistan.

It ignored that he regularly visited his home region, which is notorious for tolerating "honour killings", and that his family consider themselves equally responsible for upholding his reputation.

The family's claim was rejected, and three years ago they were told all rights of appeal had been exhausted. Since then they have fought a desperate battle - supported by their local community and MP - to stay in the safety of Britain and stave off the day when immigration officers come knocking.

Mrs Khan has thrown herself into work at the Cheetham Hill advice centre, where her knowledge of three south Asian languages means she is in great demand. She also drew on her experience to help found an organisation that supports failed women asylum-seekers.

Two years ago, her work received the royal seal of approval when she was invited to a Buckingham Palace hosted by the Queen in recognition of her "recent significant contribution to national life". The invitation arrived the day after the family made a regular visit to a Home Office reporting centre.

Her five children have settled into British life, but all face deportationalong with their mother. Her eldest son, Khurrum, 30, is married with three children, while Sara, 27, has also recently married. Amina, 15, Sikander, 13, and Maryum, 12, are all pupils at Abraham Moss High School.

Rhian Beynon, from the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "The Prime Minister has been giving immigrants a long lecture about how they need to integratein return for their rights.

"We hope when he meets Farhat Khan he realises what a gross generalisation he has been making."