You may remember the post last October where I described my efforts to help a Yemeni friend of mine who was trying to flee his country with his family. Yemen has been torn apart in recent months as Saudi Arabia and Iran fight a proxy war.
My friend, Adim (not his real name) and many of his fellow Officers had initially been tolerated by the Houthi rebels, the group supported by Iran who now hold power in Yemen. Slowly though, distrust and open aggression took over. Fearing for the safety of his family, Adim decided to try to leave the country.
He tried a number of options, all to no avail, then approached me. I sought help from Harriet Harman, my MP, hoping she would convince the Foreign Office to provide Adim a visa for entry into the UK. I offered accommodation and was reasonably confident I could arrange employment with the British Defence Academy.
As I wrote at the time, to my intense frustration Ms Harman not only did not help, but also (in my view) fobbed me off with the very thoughtless reply ‘I am not in a position to assist [Adim] as he is not residing in the UK..’ which, as I hoped was obvious, was the whole point of my reaching out to her.
So I felt a pang of sympathy for Labour Councillor Jamille Mohammed when he came doorstepping in January in advance of local elections. The poor chap got both barrels from me and had to ditch his prepared chat about bin services and cycle lanes as he suddenly found himself knee-deep in a debate about geopolitics and refugees. To his credit he took it in good grace and promised to follow up my gripe with Ms Harman.
I received the two replies above. Neither addressed my central question about requesting the Foreign Office to approve a visa for Adim and his family. I can only conclude Ms Harman has unfortunately missed the point once again. Still, as she says, I’ll try not to hesitate before contacting her in the future for any more help.
Adim sent me an email last week. He has managed to escape with his family to the neighbouring country of Oman. A mutual friend of ours in the region was able to do what we – Harriet Harman, the British state and I – totally failed to do: get through the bureaucratic and political treacle in order to provide succour to a family in genuine need. Makes me proud to be British.