An Afghan woman who has spoken out against the Taliban has been left fearing for her life after the Home Office denied her a new visa and suggested she should return to Afghanistan.
Maryam Amiri, who lives in Glasgow, is calling on the Government to reconsider its decision, saying her husband, who is also from Afghanistan, worked for British forces and it would not be safe to make either of them return.
Her MP, Alison Thewliss (Glasgow Central), said the Home Office’s advice that Mrs Amiri could return to life in Afghanistan was “dangerous” and that it did not reflect the changes in the country since her first visa was issued in 2016.
The Home Office decision notice, seen by the PA news agency, said Mrs Amiri does not qualify for leave to remain under the five-year or 10-year partner route, despite having qualified for two shorter visa periods since 2016.
It said Mrs Amiri does not meet the minimum income requirement and that the Home Secretary has not seen any evidence that there are “insurmountable obstacles” to Mrs Amiri and her husband continuing family life together in Afghanistan.
The Taliban took back power in Afghanistan in 2021 with the withdrawal of Western forces.
Human rights groups and international observers have since raised concerns about access to education and work for women and girls under the regime, and there have been concerns for the safety of those who supported western forces. The Home Office advises against travel for British nationals.
Mrs Amiri told the PA news agency: “I have always been vocal against the Taliban and their brutal regime.
“I disagree with the decision of the Home Office to send me back to Afghanistan where the women are not secure – especially for a woman activist who has always been vocal against the Taliban.”
She added: “I feel threatened and am scared of losing my life if I go back.”
Mrs Amiri said she has dreamed about going to university for years, but now she is due to start a course in September she fears she will not get the chance. She also said she wishes to continue with community work in Glasgow and aspires to become a Member of the Scottish Parliament.
She said: “I have put my life in trouble by opposing the Taliban and their activities. My family has already been threatened with persecution because I oppose the Taliban’s decisions on women’s rights. So, it’s really risky for me to go back.”
“You know what the Taliban are like. It would count against her. It would be a danger for her,” Ms Thewliss said.
“Her husband had supported the training of UK forces. Her husband has a British passport. Those would seem to me to be two very sensible reasons as to why he can’t return.
“She’s come here on a spousal visa. And in the normal course of things these get renewed. The Home Office seem to have taken no account of the fact that the situation in Afghanistan has changed dramatically from 2016 and their response reads very much as if nothing has happened.
“It’s just bizarre for them to say within the response that there’s no reason why you can’t go back to Afghanistan and support yourself as you did prior to your arrival in the UK. I mean, of course she can’t.”
The SNP MP was strongly critical of the Home Office for saying it has “not seen any evidence that there are insurmountable obstacles” to Mrs Amiri or her husband returning to Afghanistan.
She said: “If they were to follow that guidance they would be in serious danger. I know from lots of casework that I do the risks that people face.
“The idea that you can just send people back and everything will be fine, that’s just not sensible, not practical. It’s dangerous and the Home Office should really know better before putting something like this out.”
She added: “I think her case highlights just the lack of care, the lack of attention, the lack of professionalism in the Home Office.”
Ms Thewliss has raised Mrs Amiri’s case with the Prime Minister in the Commons, where she said the Home Office had advised Mrs Amiri “should return to Afghanistan”.
The MP said: “She is married to a man who worked for British forces and her family is currently being persecuted in Afghanistan.”
She added: “Can the Prime Minister think of any barriers or hardships Maryam might face in returning to a country where there is not even any means of applying for a visa?”
Rishi Sunak said it would not be appropriate for him to comment on an individual case.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “All visa applications are decided on individual merits.
“We don’t routinely comment on individual cases.”