A Birmingham doctor forced to leave the country after having his visa turned down has accused the Home Office of disrespect and lack of humanity as it chased deportation targets.
Pakistan-born Dr Syed Kazmi, who was described by colleagues as an ‘amazing doctor’, had been working in the NHS for nine years when he was told in December his visa would not be renewed.
Despite a petition signed by 35,000 people, letters of support from leading doctors and MPs including Bromsgrove’s Sajd Javed, who has since been appointed Home Secretary, the Home Office refused to reconsider.
He and his family had to leave the UK and resettled in Pakistan. He has since found work in Australia where his skills are in high demand.
It appears Dr Kazmi was a victim of the ‘hostile environment’ for immigrants which caught out many of the Windrush generation who arrived from the Caribbean and led to the resignation of former Home Secretary Amber Rudd.
Dr Kazmi, who worked in the emergency department at Birmingham’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital and lived in Lozells before being deported, was refused a new visa over a late tax payment in 2011 despite there being a shortage of doctors in the NHS.
He has received job offers from several UK hospitals, including Burton and Hereford, but even with sponsorship letters has been unable to secure a new visa.
He hopes that with new Home Secretary Mr Javed promising to lift immigration caps on doctors and nurses to help with NHS staff shortages he may be able to return one day - but for the time being says the Home Office regards him as ‘persona non grata’.
He said the impact had been felt hard by his six-year-old daughter Maryam who has only known life and school in the UK and only speaks English. His second daughter Fatima is one.
“We had to leave everything, my house. We had to re-start our life.
“My children were seriously sick, they have suffered, we all suffered. I blame the Home Office they caused harm to my children.”
The family remain in Pakistan while he is working in Australia.
He said of his ordeal that he is a doctor, not an accountant. “I had a tax issue, paid the tax and thought that was it.”
“The Home Office would not listen to any of the explanations. They disrespected me that much, I would prefer to live with respect and honour.
“If they treat a professional like this then they will treat others worse.”
He added that Great Britain has a reputation for fair play and standing up for humanity - but that cannot be said of the Home Office. “I see numbers, I see disrespect, I see abuse of the law, there’s no right of appeal. I asked for a review, but what’s the point.”
Of his new work in Tasmania, Australia he added: “They respect me here, they care for me, there’s good working conditions.”
But he would consider a return to the UK in future if the climate changes. “I loved my life, I loved the hospital, I loved the NHS. I’d rather have a life there, I was told to leave, I was forced to leave.”
Campaigners and MPs have criticised the Home Office over its use of anti-terrorism laws to create a 'hostile environment' for large numbers of highly skilled migrants including doctors, IT professionals and lawyers.
Especially at a time when many employment sectors, such as hospitals, are suffering from an acute shortage of skilled workers.
The Home Office does not comment on individual cases.