Brave Luton burns survivor Shamaim Arif and her family have been granted indefinite leave to remain in this country, which means the teenager’s future treatment is assured.
The family has been in Britain on medical visas since 2003, when Shamiam was brought here as a tiny tot for life-saving medical care following a devastating fire at her home in Kashmir.
The 15-year-old faces years of reconstructive surgery under the supervision of her beloved ‘Uncle Doctor’ – Professor Peter Dziewulski of St Andrews Burns Unit in Chelmsford Hospital who has always given his services free of charge
Luton lawyer Khuram Liaquat – who’s handled the Arifs’ legal affairs, also free of charge, since first reading Shamiam’s story in our sister paper Herald&Post – described their Biometric Residence Permits (BRPs) as “the first major milestone on their way to becoming British citizens.”
He added: “This will open a lot of doors as they will no longer have to pay for visas and will have access to public funding, just like other British citizens.
“They’ll be able to relax because Shamiam is finally in safe hands – if her appeal fund dries up, she can be treated on the NHS without charge.”
Parents Mohammed and Tahira will have to wait for a year before applying for British citizenship, but Shamiam and her three siblings – Shakaib, 14, Shamita, 10 and seven-year-old Monoor – can apply to be registered immediately. It’s hoped the application costs of nearly £1,000 for each person will be met from the appeal fund set up when Shamiam came to the country.
Mr Liaquat has again agreed to prepare and submit these without charge.
He explained: “The procedure takes three to four months. The outcome cannot be guaranteed, but I am confident that when we apply, the children will have a good chance of success.”
Over the past 10 years, Bedfords Solicitors, where he is a partner, have spent more than 150 hours dealing with the Arifs’ complicated paperwork.
Mr Liaquat smiled: “Lawyers aren’t usually known for their big hearts. But we were happy to assist after reading Shamiam’s story in the Herald&Post.
“They’re a lovely family and we wanted to do whatever we could to help. It was a rare opportunity for us to share their journey and I’m pleased to say that at least from a legal point of view, that journey is finally reaching its happy conclusion.”
The Arifs visited his Bury Park offices to collect their BRPs and thank him for his vital contribution.
Shamiam, who started Year 11 at Challney Girls High last week, presented with him with a personalised scroll, a prayer mat and a chocolate cake. She said: “We all feel so happy. We are very pleased and proud.”
> The Appeal Fund will continue to operate to provide Shamiam with procedures not supported by the NHS – such as mechanical arms/hands, specialised OT equipment, aids adaptations and transport to specialised centres.