Town backs family's deportation battle: Asian couple and three children await immigration officials' decision on their future after thousands join emotional campaign to let them stay

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The Independent Online
THE PEOPLE of Blyth, on the Northumberland coast, should know in the next few days whether they have won a long, emotional battle against the Home Office.

The town is waiting to hear if a deportation order against an Asian family is to be enforced and one of the most popular local residents in Blyth will, along with his family, be sent back to Pakistan. The story of the Tahir family and the outpouring of support they have been given by Blyth residents is unusual both in the way the family has been treated and the number of people who have said they think a grave injustice is about to be done.

Ronnie Campbell, Labour MP for Blyth Valley, has sponsored an Early Day Motion, which attracted an unprecedented 202 signatures, asking for the Tahir family to be allowed to stay in Britain on compassionate grounds. He has also been given a final meeting with Charles Wardle, the Home Office minister responsible for immigration.

The Tahirs, Mohammed, 32 and his wife Ghazala, 31, run an off-licence and grocery store on the outskirts of Blyth.

Mrs Tahir fell foul of immigration laws when her first marriage broke up and she returned to Pakistan after living in this country. She had residential status at that time but immigration rules were changed when she was in Pakistan. There, she met and married Mohammed Tahir and returned to this country to settle in Blyth. But because she did not return within two years she is now regarded as an illegal immigrant and is facing deportation with her husband and three children.

When the people of Blyth learnt of their plight they rallied behind the family and 4,000 signed a petition for the Tahirs to be allowed to stay. Children at the local school wrote to the Queen and the Tahir Action Group was set up.

Janet Beecroft, 36, a housewife whose twin daughters wrote their own letter to the Queen, said: 'It would be tragic if this family were sent back to Pakistan. They are a lovely couple and it is just wrong that they are facing this deportation. We just hope the Home Office sees sense at the end of it all.'

Mrs Tahir, however, was issued with a final deportation order on new year's eve, under the Immigration Acts of 1971 and 1988, telling her officially that she had been granted permission to enter this country for six months in December 1989, providing she did not get a job.

The order said that an application for further leave to remain as a dependant was refused in June 1990 and a subsequent appeal had been dismissed by an adjudicator on 13 November 1991.

A further application for leave to remain pending the outcome of an appeal by her husband has also now been refused with no further rights of appeal.

A decision whether to enforce the order is expected within the next few days. In the meantime, Mr Tahir says he is trying to carry on a normal life.

He said: 'We have been overwhelmed by the support we have had from so many people. It is unbelievable and makes us very happy. We have to think positively. If we are deported there is no life

for us in Pakistan. We just keep hoping.'