Former shoe-shine boy refused visa to visit Edinburgh

Fasil works as a tour guide in Addis Ababa.
Fasil works as a tour guide in Addis Ababa.
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A FORMER city MP is calling on the Home Office to have a change of heart and grant a young African he has supported through school and university a visa to come to Edinburgh for a holiday.

Liberal Democrat John Barrett first met Fasil Legesse Dagne and his brother 15 years ago when he was on a visit to Ethiopia as a member of a House of Commons international development select committee. They were scraping a living as shoe-shine boys in the capital Addis Ababa, working in shifts, with one going to school in the morning and the other in the afternoon.

John Barrett first met Fasil when he visited Ethiopia as an MP

John Barrett first met Fasil when he visited Ethiopia as an MP

Mr Barrett and his wife Carol have visited Ethiopia several times since and kept in touch with the pair.

And they decided to pay for Fasil, now 26, to visit Edinburgh next month for a holiday - but the Home Office is refusing him a visa.

The rejection letter says they are not satisfied he is a “genuine visitor” who will leave the UK when he is due to go home.

But Mr Barrett said: “He has his brother and a lovely girlfriend in Addis and will return.

“The Home Office is basically saying to him ‘You can’t come to Edinburgh for a holiday’.

“He’s coming for three weeks but he is not going to become a permanent UK resident.”

And Mr Barrett has enlisted the support of fellow Lib Dem Christine Jardine, MP for his old constituency of Edinburgh West, in pressing the Home Office for a fresh look at Fasil’s application.

Mr Barrett said: “I met this guy because he was shining shoes outside the hotel I was staying in. He was 11 then and his brother was seven. I asked him to be my guide and show me the neighbourhood for half an hour because I had a break between meetings. He showed me where they lived. They made enough money to get food each day, but not much more.

“We helped them through primary school, secondary school and university. His brother has just been accepted into university to study medicine.

“Last year we visited them in Addis Ababa and bought his brother a laptop for his studies as he said this would make a major difference for him as he needed to access study material online.”

Fasil is now working as a tour guide in Addis and Mr Barrett says he is keen to develop his language skills and work in the tourism industry.

“We thought rather than go on holiday this year we would spend what we would spend on a holiday bringing him over.”

There is no right of appeal if the Home Office refuses a visa application.

But Ms Jardine said she was pursuing the case. “It’s ridiculous it’s so difficult for someone just to come and visit this country,” she said.

“Sadly, I have cases like this all the time - often people who are just trying to bring folk over for a family wedding and they are refused visas.

“But I’m not giving up on trying to help in this case - we have been able to help other people in the past.”