The Home Office has abandoned its battle to separate a couple from their four British children, 11 grandchildren and a great-grandchild by forcing them to return to Iran.
The climbdown happened a month after the Guardian broke the story of the government’s attempts to force the 83-year-old great-grandfather, Rezvan Habibimarand, and 73-year-old great-grandmother, Mozaffar Saberi, out of the country.
The case of the couple, who bought their flat in Edinburgh in 1978, was raised in the House of Commons and more than 127,000 people had signed an online petition calling for them to be allowed to stay in the UK.
The family are delighted but their lawyer, John Vassiliou, a partner at McGill & Co Solicitors, has accused the Home Office of forcing families into a long and ruinously expensive “indentured servitude”.
Placing the blame on the 2012 changes made by Theresa May when she was home secretary, Vassiliou said the couple now face a bill of around £20,000 in Home Office fees to turn their new indefinite leave to remain status into that of British citizens.
This sum excludes the £2,622 cost of their applications up to now and all their legal fees.
“This is the price of a human rights visa,” said Vassiliou. “This is the price that all those granted leave to remain in the UK on human rights grounds must face.
“Over the last few years, costs have risen to a level tantamount to binding ‘successful’ applicants to 10 years of indentured servitude to the Home Office, all in the name of continuing to remain in the UK after it has already been accepted that their removal would breach the UK’s human rights obligations,” he added.
The couple live near their close-knit family in Edinburgh and depend heavily on their daily support. But they also act as co-parents to one of their grandchildren, a non-verbal teenager with severe autism who requires constant supervision. Their help enables the boy’s mother – a single parent – to continue her work as an NHS nurse.
More than 127,800 people had signed a petition on change.org calling on the Home Office to allow the couple to stay in the UK and they have now been given leave to remain.
“We’ve been given the world, everything, words cannot express how happy and grateful we are not to be separated from and be able to still see our grandchildren and children,” said Habibimarand.
“I am also happy that those who believed in human rights and helped and supported us based on the true nature of these rights helped us overcome this plight,” said Saberi. “We hope nobody gets separated or be in a situation to fear this separation from their children and grandchildren in the future anywhere in the world. The pain caused by this fear is insurmountable.”
A Home Office spokeswoman said: “Following a review of the case, during which supplementary evidence was provided and considered, Mr Saberi and Mrs Habibimarand have been granted 30 months’ leave to remain.”