LONDON: A former Afghan interpreter and his wife who live in Britain have been separated from their infant son for more than six months due to visa problems, The Times newspaper reported.
Sajid Naeemi, 29, told The Times that the situation was devastating for him, adding that his wife Mena was “crying every single day” after they left their son in Afghanistan because of visa delays.
The UK Ministry of Defence in January requested copies of the child’s passport and birth certificate to commence a reuniting effort, but the couple have not heard from them due to a growing backlog of cases for civil servants to work through.
“I am devastated,” Naeemi told The Times. “I feel like I am being betrayed by the MoD and the government as a whole. My wife is feeling the same. She is crying when she sees him over the phone. She tells me every single day to send her back to Afghanistan.”
Ministry officials are struggling to process thousands of asylum applications since the fall of Kabul to the Taliban last year.
Rules for who can move to Britain from Afghanistan have gradually relaxed in recent years, with family members being offered the opportunity to join interpreters.
But many people who worked with British troops have struggled to acquire the necessary clearances and permission to move to the UK, even as restrictions are eased.
Naeemi has been luckier than most interpreters, moving to Britain in 2016 ahead of the fall of Kabul under a government relocation scheme. He spent two years on the frontline in Helmand province, serving alongside British troops.
He moved with his last wife, who he divorced after moving to the northwest of England, and married his current wife Mena in 2019 on a visit to his home country.
Naeemi, who found work with Amazon, applied for Mena to join him in Britain, saying he spent £1,400 ($1,600) on a fast-track visa service.
The service was advertised as taking six weeks to process, but their son was born while they waited. Naeemi was told that if he restarted the application for the new family member, then it would be rejected due to his limited funds from his work.
Naeemi’s life became additionally strenuous when the Taliban took over last autumn.
Mena, 25, attempted to board a flight for Britain but was turned away due to having insufficient paperwork.
His brother, Halimjan, was shot while commuting to work, which his family believes was a revenge attack due to their support as interpreters.
Naeemi then asked the ministry to bring his wife, son, and Halimjan’s five children to Britain.
Last October, Mena was granted a short-time visa by the UK Home Office. She took it, fearing that there was a risk she would never be united with her husband in Britain if she waited for a better deal.
Naeemi this year responded to a ministry request for documentation on his son and Halimjan’s five children, who were adopted by Naeemi with their mother’s blessing.
He replied with the full official documentation but has been kept in the lurch, sending requests for an update.
He told The Times: “They haven’t sent me a single letter in all that time. Now I’m worried they are stuck thinking about the Ukraine crisis and focusing on us less and less.”
The ministry said: “We can’t comment on the details of individual cases, but we regret any delays incurred as we work through complex cases, which often include duplicate or ineligible applications. We are investing in a new casework system, which will enable swifter processing and improved communications with applicants, and we are putting more resources into processing applications.”