29/08/2018 15:04 BST | Updated 29/08/2018 18:44 BST

Friends Join Fight Against Threat Of Deportation Of Two Teenage Brothers

Nearly 85,000 people have signed a petition to halt the plans.

Dozens of friends of two schoolboys who face being deported from the UK joined them to hand in a petition aimed at halting the plans. 

Fearing their lives would be at risk if they were sent back to Pakistan, brothers Somer and Areeb Umeed Bakhsh, aged 15 and 13, hope to be granted asylum.

Nearly 85,000 people have signed a petition set up by campaigners 38degrees, which calls on the Home Office to halt plans to remove the pair from the country.

School friends stood alongside the boys with homemade banners showing their solidarity, as Labour MP Paul Sweeney and Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland Rev Susan Brown handed the petition to staff at the Border and Immigration Agency office in Glasgow, where the boys live. 

Somer said: “It’s very nice to see so many people actually supporting us and it shows how much they care.”

PA Wire/PA Images
Paul Sweeney MP hands over the petition

The brothers, being of Christian faith, would be a minority group in Pakistan, where blasphemy carries the death penalty. The family fled to Glasgow in 2012 after their father, Maqsood, received death threats from Islamist extremists due to his faith.

Since then, Maqsood has said his photograph has been circulated among extremist groups, making the entire country unsafe for he and his family to revisit.

The UK government does not believe that they would be at risk if deported.

Rev Brown said: “Somer has done so well in his exams at Springburn Academy, scoring six As and a B in his National 5s, despite the worry and stress of the family situation.

“If 84,000 people are willing to welcome them, why on earth can’t the authorities?”

Sweeney criticised the current system for claiming asylum.

“Fundamentally, there needs to be an element of compassion put back into the Home Office processes,” he added.

A judicial review against the family’s asylum refusal was lodged in March 2013 and dismissed in November 2013, followed by a second judicial review which was dismissed at the Court of Appeal in January 2015.

In recent years, Christians have been targeted in a string of deadly terrorist attacks claimed by Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant.

A Home Office spokesperson said: “The UK has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and every case is assessed on its individual merits.”