A NURSE in Scotland’s NHS and his eight-year-old son have been stuck 2500 miles away from their family for weeks after an airline refused to accept his post-Brexit credentials as proof of his right to be in the UK.

Ali Abunejmeh has been trapped in Istanbul with his son Sebastian since August 6, thousands of miles from their home in Scotland, after Turkish Airlines staff prohibited them from boarding a plane back to the UK.

Although Sebastian has a British passport, Ali only had the Home Office’s “view and prove” app – which is open to people who used the post-Brexit EU Settlement Scheme – to demonstrate his indefinite leave to remain in the UK.

Ali said he had specifically checked with the UK Government and been told that this app would be enough to guarantee his right to travel.

“This is a legal document,” he said. “It’s not like I don’t have a visa, I’ve been living in the UK for more than 15 years. I’ve got three kids. This is my home, I’ve got everything there. It’s my home.”

The National: Ali pictured with his wife JanaAli pictured with his wife Jana

The Home Office said travellers need an in-date “Biometric Residence Card” (BRC) in order to fly. However, Ali pointed to UK Government guidance published in April 2022 that says that the “view and prove” app would be sufficient if his BRC was expired (as his is).

A spokesperson from the3million campaign, which has been helping Ali and Sebastian in their struggle to return to the UK, said it was “unacceptable that people are facing significant emotional and financial consequences, unable to return to their homes in the UK because of a lack of clear, consistent communication”.

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Despite paying an extra fee to have his case rushed through the system after he was blocked from boarding the plane, Ali received nothing but generic emails from the Home Office assuring him that his “visa application” was “currently being prepared for consideration”.

The references to a “visa application” came despite Ali having documentary proof that he was granted settled status in the UK on December 20, 2019 – around one month before Brexit officially came into effect.

“I was shocked [at how the Home Office responded],” Ali said. “I even put ‘emergency family situation’ and even then … I was especially shocked.

“Sebastian has missed a week of school and he’s been really stressed out and upset. He doesn’t understand what is happening. He is calling his mum and crying, speaking to his sister and his brother and crying, and they are the same.

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“My wife was really devastated, it’s been a real struggle, you know, not knowing what is happening. I’ve spent so far more than £2000 on hotels and food because I don’t know anybody here.”

Ali, who works for NHS Highland and is married to a Czech national named Jana, lives in Nairn with her and their three children: Jacob, who is 5, Sebastian, 8, and Celine, 10.

He said the original plan had been to take the whole family to visit his relatives in Jordan, but the delays hitting the UK passport processing system had meant his oldest and youngest children did not have the documents needed to travel.

The National:

As such, he and Jana decided that Sebastian and Ali (above) would visit Jordan, while the rest of the family remained in Scotland.

The father and middle child have now been stuck in Istanbul for almost one month, waiting for leave to be united with the rest of their family.

The National spoke to Drew Hendry, the SNP MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, about Ali’s case.

Hendry said: “This horrendous situation has become all too commonplace with a failing Home Office, utterly obsessed with a hostile environment approach to policy. The system is so complicated and ill-thought-through.

“To make matters worse, the department is barely functioning meaning it is almost impossible to reach to get issues resolved. My team and I have raised this matter with the Home Office asking for urgent assistance and will keep on the case until Mr Abunejmeh is back in Nairn, home safe.”

The spokesperson from the3million campaign told The National: “We are calling for the Home Office to further clarify to airlines that they must allow passengers to board their flights when they can prove their status digitally through the Home Office’s own ‘view and prove’ system.

“With people being denied access to their rights in this way, it is baffling how the Government can claim the success of the EU Settlement Scheme while disregarding the repercussions people experience when the system fails.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “Any non-EEA nationals granted settled status must carry their Biometric Residence Card when travelling abroad and this should be in date.

“We will be in touch with Mr Abunejmeh.”

Turkish Airlines, who Ali said was most at fault for his situation given they would not accept his legal UK documentation, did not respond to a request for comment.