Decision to refuse Pakistani Christians entry to the UK reversed

The Church of Scotland has welcomed a decision to overturn the refusal of travel visas to two Pakistani Christians.

The Home Office ruling means that Faroq Maseh and Waris Emmanuel are now able to join a delegation visiting Glasgow next month.

Despite reassurances being provided, immigration officials refused the applicants visas on the basis they could not prove they were wealthy enough to be allowed into the UK.

The Presbytery of Glasgow, which will fully fund the visit, said the two men had been left “personally depressed and shocked” by the situation.

The case was taken up by Kirsten Oswald, MP for East Renfrewshire, who raised it with Prime Minister Theresa May who ordered a review of the decision.

Glasgow Presbytery joint clerk Very Rev Bill Hewitt welcomed the U-turn and said it would help the church “build a partnership” with people of faith in Pakistan.

“We are delighted that the delegation from Pakistan coming to Glasgow is now complete and the one week trip as planned can now go ahead,” he added.

Mr Hewitt, a former Moderator of the General Assembly, said the delegation will be shown round projects that support some of the most vulnerable people in Glasgow.

He thanked Ms Oswald for all her work on the case and for raising the issue in the House of Commons last month, a move that made all the difference.

Mr Hewitt said a Presbytery delegation visited the Diocese of Hyderabad in 2015 and bringing people from Pakistan to Scotland would give the twinning partnership “real meaning.”

Glasgow Presbytery had feared the difficulties faced by people from poorer countries in securing visas would hamper international church events such as the World Council of Churches General Assembly.

But Mr Hewitt said the visa decision gave him hope that the Glasgow would be able to host the conference in a meaningful way in the future.

The visa applications were made through the Faithshare Visitor Programme run by the Church of Scotland’s World Mission Council which is vastly experienced in this area.

Ms Oswald said: “I am delighted that the twinning project will now go ahead.

“The initial decision to refuse visas to the two Pakistani Christians was simply wrong.”