“Fahad Bhai, I’m still here” the voice whispered over the phone.
“AHMED!!!? What do you mean you’re still here? You should be on the plane!” I responded barely believing what I was hearing.
“It left without me”, he explained.
“They took others but for some reason, they never came for me.”
“Oh thank God for that, at least I can get back to the hospital now.”
I will never forget that heart-stopping conversation I had with my client Ahmed while he sat in Colnbrook Removal Centre waiting to be returned to Pakistan.
It was the night of the 13th of May 2014.
My son had been born two days earlier on the 11th.
The very next day, I received news that Ahmed was being removed to Pakistan on the following night
I was on paternity leave but I knew I had to do something.
If Ahmed was removed to Pakistan, it would be almost impossible for him to come back.
He would be separated from his British partner Maryam and her son Khalil.
The new Immigration Rules meant that Maryam would need to be earning £18,600 a year for him to join her on a spouse visa.
As a single mother living in the Midlands, this was almost impossible for her.
Even the immigration judge who dismissed Ahmed’s appeal recognised that Khalil viewed Ahmed as his father and that it was inconceivable for their family life to continue outside of the UK.
The judge had noted the harsh consequences of Ahmed’s removal on the family and accepted that it was in Khalil’s best interests for Ahmed to remain with the family.
My barrister in the case, Raza Halim of Garden Court Chambers, believed that the findings by the judge about the family life in this case were some of the strongest he had ever seen in a judgement.
Yet, simply because Ahmed was not legally married to Maryam, the judge dismissed the case.
We had issued judicial review proceedings in the High Court which were ongoing.
But the Home Office were still trying to remove him.
I knew the next 36 hours would be spent on the nerve-wrecking, adrenaline-pumping process of trying to obtain an injunction from the High Court to stop the flight.
But first, I had to do something far more daunting.
I had to explain to my wife that I would not be coming to the hospital that day!
Having survived that conversation, I knew I was ready for the High Court. I called the heroic Raza Halim and we set to work.
I recall telling him that the birth of my own son made me even more determined to keep Ahmed’s family together.
Despite our best efforts and working around the clock, even applying for an injunction at approximately 9pm on the night the flight was due to depart, the judge refused to grant the injunction.
We had lost.
Ahmed was going to be flown back to Pakistan in just over an hour.
Absolutely shattered and immensely frustrated at what had happened, I collapsed in my chair waiting for the inevitable tearful call from Maryam.
So when my phone rang, I was not surprised.
But when I saw that it was Ahmed’s mobile number flashing up on my phone, I nearly died.
For whatever reason, they had not removed him.
To this day, I do not know why Ahmed was not put on that flight.
He was listed to be on the plane, our legal challenge had failed, and it had seemed a foregone conclusion.
I was later to learn that there was something very special about Ahmed as over the next six weeks, the Home Office sought to remove him to Pakistan on two more occasions …
and failed to do so each time.
Despite the judges repeatedly (and unreasonably) refusing our applications for injunctions, Ahmed was overlooked for the plane on both occasions.
We subsequently managed to persuade an immigration judge to grant Ahmed bail as it seemed the Home Office just could not remove him, and his family were suffering without him.
Over the next two years, we continued to fight Ahmed’s case, taking it as far as the Court of Appeal.
During this time, he also married Maryam and they were blessed with a son, Ishaq.
Yesterday, it brought me great happiness to call Ahmed and break the news to him that after many years of struggle and anxiety, he had finally been granted leave to remain in the UK.
Looking back to the 13th of May 2014, everything had seemed so hopeless.
Yet just two days earlier, I had named my newborn son after the great prophet Ayub (Job) as a symbol of hope and patience in a turmoil-filled world.
Ahmed’s case taught me that even in the most desperate situations, miracles do occur as long as we exert our maximum efforts to fight our corner.
And have hope.
Visadreams.com, Diary of an Immigration Lawyer, is a blog run by Fahad Ansari, the director and principal solicitor of Riverway Law, a niche UK immigration and nationality law practice based in London. If you would like any advice or assistance in relation to your immigration matter, please do not hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or submit your details here.