UPDATE: Simpson Millar Succeed in Staying Vulnerable Refugees' Deportation #SaveRaja


  • Tribunal decision finds in favour of applicants
  • Simpson Millar seeking immediate bail for release of couple from Yarls Wood
  • Saudi religious police the ‘Mutawa’ have made repeated death threats against deportee
  • Online petition has amassed 23,000 signatures in 48 hours
  • Qatar Airways refuses to transport couple to Saudi Arabia 'on medical grounds'

Raja and Mahmoud

Immigration specialists at law firm Simpson Millar have succeeded in staying the deportation of a Syrian women's rights activist and her husband to Saudi Arabia.

A week of high profile campaigning by the couple's friends and their solicitor Emma Brooksbank of Simpson Millar has resulted in the Upper Tribunal Court today stopping the removal tomorrow of Syrian national Raja Bachir Khouja (56) and her Saudi husband Mahmoud Alhassan (67) who were due for deportation on 25th June having been arrested and detained at the Yarl's Wood detention centre on June 5th.

Specialist immigration solicitor Emma Brooksbank of Simpson Millar is representing the pair and says: "At a hearing in London today, Mr Justice Dove and Upper Tribunal Judge Canavan ordered a stay on the removal of the applicant Raja Khouja and her dependant husband Mahmoud Alhassan. The stay has been ordered until consideration of the application for permission to proceed with the Judicial Review has taken place or until further order. No date has been set for the permission hearing. It is likely to be within the next few weeks. Simpson Millar will be applying for immediate bail to have them released from Yarl's Wood and we will be writing to both Yarl's Wood and the Home Office to explain the terms of the order and to explain that removal in contravention of the order would be in contempt of court."

Meanwhile, a groundswell of public opinion has resulted in the airline due to carry Raja and her husband to Saudi tomorrow, Qatar Airways, announcing that it would not accept them as passengers.

In a statement given today (Wednesday) before the tribunal decision was announced, Qatar Airways said: "Qatar Airways has decided not to accept two passengers who were due to fly from London tomorrow on medical grounds. Qatar Airways has informed the respective Home Office department of its decision and has no further comment to make."

"We are not at the finish line yet, but this is very good news," adds Emma. "We thank the courts for hearing our case today and also Qatar Airways for listening to our calls and choosing in this instance not to transport Raja and Mahmoud. Raja is in particular danger from the authorities in Saudi Arabia where religious police have made repeated death threats against her.

"Ironically, it appears that our repeated calls for Yarl's Wood to support Mahmoud's diabetes medication regime during his incarceration has been helpful in this instance, given that Qatar Airways was able to refuse his transport on medical grounds. Nevertheless we believe this gesture shows the power people can have if they co-ordinate their efforts for a just cause."

"Raja and Mahmoud were facing removal to Saudi Arabia, despite having lived in Syria together for over 13 years before the war broke out and Raja having never lived in Saudi before," adds Emma Brooksbank. "They have been in the UK since November 2010 having originally arrived on tourist visas and making several applications to remain.

"Raja has been hounded from afar by the Saudi-based ‘Mutawa'. They are Islamic Religious police who enforce Sharia law under the guise of something called ‘the Committee for the Promotion of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice. She received at least three threats on her life for actions such as observing International Women's Day Festivals and writing articles promoting the rights of women to vote, show their faces in public, drive a car, and so on."

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