PROTESTERS are fighting the deportation of a Leeds couple who fear for their lives – as immigration specialists battle against the clock to keep them in the UK.
Friends and supporters of Syrian-born Raja Bachir Khouja, 56, and her Saudi husband Mahmoud Alhassan, 67, demonstrated yesterday outside the UK Border Agency office at Waterside Court on Kirkstall Road.
An online petition has also gained over 1,500 signatures.
The couple, who have lived in Leeds for four years, face deportation to Saudi Arabia on June 25, but Raja said she could face imprisonment, torture or death as she is an outspoken women’s rights activist.
Specialist immigration solicitor, Emma Brooksbank from Simpson Millar, is representing them. She said: “[Raja] received at least three threats on her life for actions such as observing International Women’s Day Festivals and writing articles promoting the rights of women to vote, drive a car, and so on.”
The couple lived in Syria before coming to the UK in 2010 for a holiday. They say they intended to return but could not due to the ongoing conflict in the region, and made several applications to remain in the UK.
Speaking previously, Lydia Groenewald, a friend and member of All Hallow’s Church, said: “It is just a terrible tragedy. It feels as though things have been rushed without any proper research into the risks.”
A judicial review against the decision to remove them from the UK was rejected and an urgent renewal application has since been submitted and is under consideration. The couple is being held at Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre.
A Home Office spokesman said: “The UK has a long history of offering sanctuary to those who genuinely need it and each claim is carefully considered.
“But when someone is found not to need our protection, we expect them to leave the country voluntarily. Where they do not, we will seek to enforce their deportation.”