Earlier this week, a campaign was launched in Manchester town hall to support the right to stay in the UK of Perparim Demaj, a Kosovan asylum seeker.
Perparim arrived in the UK in 1998 after fleeing persecution in Kosovo and was granted temporary leave to remain. He came to Manchester, where he learned English and then began working and volunteering. He gained qualifications and has been working for Manchester Social Services for over four years. Recently, he has been supporting individuals and families with HIV/AIDS.
Then, last July, his solicitor informed him that the Home Office had decided that he no longer had the right to work in the UK and that he may face deportation. As a result, his employers had no option but to dismiss him or face legal action from the Home Office.
Wendy Allison of UNISON, the public service union, commented, ‘asylum is used as a political football, especially with a general election coming up, but we have to realise that behind the headlines are real people whose lives are often at stake and who have an awful lot to offer.’
Support from community
Perparim is sorely missed by his colleagues and clients. Steve Barksby, whom Perparim supported until his right to work was taken away, said, ‘I can’t even begin to describe how special Perparim was as a Support Worker. As someone with HIV, I often have to deal with ignorance and insensitivity but Perparim really seemed to understand. Not only did he help me with my practical problems but he was somebody I could talk to when things were really getting on top of me. Perparim would regularly work over his hours and would rather have worked unpaid than leave someone who needed him. He brought in food which he had bought and cooked himself for people who were struggling. He was so dedicated. He was polite and kind and always had a smile on his face. People like Perparim are hard to come by and things haven’t been the same for me since he has had to stop work. To send someone so valuable out of the country when they are needed here just doesn’t make sense.’
Perparim has been fortunate in that Manchester City Council has left his job open for him. The council applied for a work permit from the Home Office but this was refused in December 2004. So now, Perparim is in a position where, despite having paid tax and national insurance for five and a half years, he is left destitute.
Perparim, like countless others, now has to sign on every month with the Immigration Service and has been asked to leave the country voluntarily. He could be detained and deported at any time. Emma Ginn of the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns told IRR news ‘The leader of Manchester City Council has described their former and much missed employee as “a model citizen”. The council is desperate for social workers like Perparim but the Home Office has refused the council’s work permit application for him. It doesn’t make sense from any perspective.’