Trial witness says he feels ‘betrayed and helpless’ after Home Office threatens deportation

Sameer Shaikh
Sameer Shaikh

AN INDIAN national who was promised protection in the UK for helping the Home Office in a trial into suspected immigration fraud has been threatened with deportation.

Sameer Shaikh, who came to Britain on a student visa in 2008, had agreed to give evidence against his former boss who ran one of the centres found to be involved in the fraudulent English language tests exposed in a BBC Panorama documentary in 2014.

Shaikh had worked at a centre where some of the fraudulent tests had taken place. He was allegedly blackmailed by his boss to take part and he himself was convicted of being involved in the scandal.

Immigration officials told him that if he pleaded guilty, he could act as a witness in the prosecution.

Officers from the Home Office’s criminal and financial investigations team reportedly assured him that he would be protected from any repercussions from his former boss, Fassiuddin Mohammad, also from India and reportedly knew where Shaikh lived.

They also granted Shaikh temporary leave to remain for the duration of the trial. After it ended in 2016, an officer said he would “make an application” for Shaikh to say. But a few months later the officer said he had “looked at the options” and there was nothing that he could do, reported The Independent.

Shaikh said that at this point he felt “really betrayed and helpless”, adding: “I didn’t have a solicitor at that time, I didn’t have proper advice. I had only a few weeks until my visa was expiring. I didn’t have enough money to make an application because I was working part-time.”

Although Shaikh managed to submit an application for indefinite leave to remain, it was refused in February 2018. He risks being deported if he did not appeal the decision and stayed in the UK.

“After I saw the refusal letter I became depressed. I had suicidal thoughts. I just felt I had nowhere to go now. I felt really let down and betrayed,” he said.

“When I agreed to give evidence the officer kept saying they had ‘policies in place’ to protect witnesses, and that ‘as long as I don’t worry, you don’t worry’. He kept using these phrases and sentences, which really assured me, and gave me expectations that I’d be protected.

“If an immigration officer – who is in a position of trust and power – says something like this, I have no reason to not trust him or to disbelieve or question him.

“I believed in the government, I believed in the system. That’s why I was encouraged to go along with this. But they just left me totally helpless.”

Shaikh’s solicitor Fiyaz Saeed, director of Legal Eagles Solicitors, told the Independent: “This approach undermines any trust that exists in the Home Office and damages us as a society by clogging up the courts system with appeals that simply should not have had to be made if the papers were properly looked at in the first place.

“It also means less people will be prepared to assist the Home Office in stepping forward and becoming witnesses so that the really bad in our society can be caught and convicted.

“It is beyond doubt to me that Sameer was promised by the Home Office that he would be protected from harm in accordance with the Home Office policy, and to not grant him that protection by continuing to grant him leave is simply wrong.

“He has now been forced to turn to the press and advertise his case despite the clear threat of harm he faces. I hope this article will get the attention of some of the other witnesses who were also promised leave.”