Being an MP offers me the great privilege of being able to meet a wide range of people, from all walks of life.
I recently had the pleasure of meeting with Sabir Zazai, Chief Executive of the Scottish Refugee Council, at the charity’s headquarters in Glasgow.
Sabir’s battle with the Home Office was documented in the press earlier this year after it refused to grant his father a visit visa so he could see Sabir receive an honorary doctorate from Glasgow University.
As Sabir is a constituent, my staff and I fought his corner, haranguing the Home Office day and night on his behalf for weeks on end.
I raised the issue as a point of order in the House of Commons, and urged the Home Secretary to intervene. Sabir’s case was also highlighted in the Guardian and several prominent campaigners spoke out at the decision.
Eventually, under great pressure, the Home Office backed down and I was delighted to see photos and footage of Sabir with his father at the ceremony.
The original decision was cruel and wrong and shows exactly why we must fight against the hostile environment created by the Home Office.
The tumultuous time he experienced as a result was just one of many issues I discussed with Sabir during my visit.
He explained how he arrived in the UK as an asylum seeker in 1999, fleeing conflict in Afghanistan.
In 2017, he became the CEO of the Scottish Refugee Council, an organisation that works with refugees and asylum seekers across Scotland from its base in Glasgow city centre.
As well as offering advice and support, it produces policy work and research aimed at influencing policy makers throughout the UK to bring issues that matter to those seeking refuge to the fore.
Its most recent campaign is fighting plans by Serco to evict asylum seekers from their homes, serving controversial lock-change notices.
The charity estimates that around 300 people in total will be forced onto the streets of Glasgow in the coming months.
To knowingly make people homeless and drive them to destitution is an unspeakably cruel policy and an abuse of human rights.
The good news is that the people of Glasgow are not about to let these evictions happen without a fight and protests and demonstrations are taking place across the city and at the headquarters of the company behind the lock-change proposal.
Fifty per cent of refugees across the world are children. They are often fleeing conflict or human rights abuses in the countries they have left behind.
Despite unfair myths, most asylum seekers know nothing about the UK’s welfare system before coming here, they are not permitted to work and have to live on Home Office support equivalent to just over £5 per day.
We are very fortunate to live in a country that is safe and secure, the least we can do is afford some of that safety and security to those with no other option but to flee their homes. Compassion costs nothing.
More information on the Scottish Refugee Council can be found at http://www.scottishrefugeecouncil.org.uk/