THE Home Office said on Wednesday that a Christian teenager, Somer Umeed Bakhsh, has been granted leave to remain in the UK, along with his family. The news came after the 16-year-old was lauded for excelling in his exams while under the threat of deportation. He has been described as a “gift” to a Church of Scotland congregation.
Somer gained four As and one B in his Scottish Highers. He is a pupil at Springburn Academy in Glasgow, and aspires to be an astrophysicist. He and his family are seeking asylum in the UK after they fled Pakistan. Two petitions, with almost 94,000 signatures, called on the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, to reconsider the case. The Church Times learned on Wednesday that the family had been granted limited leave to remain until February 2022.
Speaking on Friday, Somer said that he felt like a weight had been lifted off his shoulders. He said: “Scotland is my home, I have grown up here, all my friends are here and I feel like a Scottish boy.
“I am very thankful to everyone who has supported my family and the people who signed the petitions - we could not have got to this point without you.
“But I am disappointed that we will have to apply to the Home Office for an extension in just two and a half years.”
Somer thanked God for keeping him focused at school. He said: “I want to thank my primary-school teachers, who provided me with a strong foundation; and my secondary-school teachers, who put in the hard work and taught me.
“I am also very thankful for my parents who, despite the stressful situation, always encouraged and supported me. Above all, I want to thank God who helped me to stay focused on my studies in the midst of these tough times.”
The family attend Possilpark Parish Church, Glasgow. Its minister, the Revd Linda Pollock, said earlier this month: “Somer is living under considerable strain and he is an example to us all.
“How many adults would be able to achieve four As and one B at Higher level whilst coping with the threat of imminent departure to a place where they are a target for Islamic extremists?
“His hard work and focus is commendable, and you must also know that he has not been a recluse. He has a very active social life, and he works with kids living with difficult circumstances.”
Speaking after the news of the family being granted leave to remain, Ms Pollock said: “I am relieved and feel deep joy that this decision has been made because these youngsters have been living in a psychological prison and in bondage for too long.”
The Umeed Bakshs fled Pakistan in 2012 after they received death threats because of their faith. The Home Office expressed disbelief, and repeatedly rejected their appeals for asylum, a Church of Scotland spokesman said.
Ms Pollock went on: “He is a gift to our community and our congregation, and we are thankful for him and his family. If he is offering so much at 16 years of age, what will he offer at 30?”
Ms Pollock said Mr Umeed Bakhsh and his wife were “bouncing up and down with wide smiles on their faces” after they received the news of their leave to remain.
The Very Revd Susan Brown, Moderator of the Church of Scotland until May, said: “Somer’s results reflect his commitment to making the most of this opportunity he has been given, which in turn is a reflection of his parents’ gratitude for this violence- and threat-free life they have in Scotland.”