The Home Office is forcing an NHS doctor to leave the country rather than give her three-year-old daughter, currently living with her dangerously ill grandparents in Egypt, permission to come to the UK.
Amany Abdelmeguid came to the UK from Egypt in 2016 on a Tier 2 visa, sponsored by Health Education England as part of a drive to recruit junior doctors in the UK. At the same time, her husband – an anaesthetist – took a job in Saudi Arabia to get the training he needed to also work for the NHS.
The couple’s daughter, Layan, was left in Egypt with her paternal grandparents. At the time, the elderly couple were in good health. But the application has taken so long – the government guidance says 100% of applications from Cairo are processed in 15 days, but Abdelmeguid was forced to wait three months – that their health has now deteriorated to the point they can no longer look after their granddaughter.
Abdelmeguid, who works at the Sandwell and West Birmingham hospitals NHS Trust, applied for Layan’s visa in July 2017. The application was rejected in October on the grounds her husband wasn’t in the UK at the time it was made.
“The government guidelines say that both of the applicant’s parents must be present unless there are ‘serious or compelling family or other considerations which would make it desirable not to refuse the application and suitable arrangements have been made in the UK for the applicant’s care’,” said Abdelmeguid.
“I have made suitable arrangements for Layan’s care: I have more than enough money and secured a place for her at a private nursery,” she said. “The problems is that guidelines do not explain what these serious or compelling family or other considerations are. It seems that is totally based on personal opinion not the actual law.”
Layan’s father, Dr Ahmed Ibrahim, is unable to return to Egypt to look after their daughter: the Saudi government have his passport and will not let him break his contract. It is impractical for Layan to live with him: “My hours are too long to look after a child and I have just been moved to a rural part of Saudi Arabia near the Yemeni border,” he explained in a letter to the Home Office. “It is no place for a child.”
After the application – and an appeal – were rejected, Abdelmeguid received an email from the Home Office saying they understood she had exceptional circumstances she had not initially explained, and suggesting she should re-apply. She did so – providing all the evidence they asked for – but received another rejection on the same grounds.
“I don’t understand how my daughter’s circumstances are less than exceptional,” she said. “And I can’t understand the logic of the refusal: I can care for her. And I really don’t understand the logic of a government that pays money to recruit doctors from abroad to work here and then makes it impossible for them to stay.