In what sounds like a Monty Python sketch, the latest unbelievable tale of exploitation of Britain’s non-existent ‘asylum policy’ has come with the news that a Pakistani woman will be granted leave to stay in Britain because she is tall.
Zainab Bibi, who is 7ft 2in, invaded Britain two-and-a-half years ago and has spent much of the time since on benefits. She has been able to send money home to her family while Home Office investigators examine her application for political asylum. Now it appears that her asylum appeal has been granted because she claims that her height has “made her a target at home.”
Miss Zainab, 35, a former holder of the ‘world’s tallest woman’ title, said when she lodged her claim that she was afraid to return to Pakistan because youths had thrown stones at her, pulled at her clothing and she once broke her wrist when attacked. Officials are expected to recommend that she should be allowed to remain in Britain.
Back in the impoverished, Punjabi village of Mandi Rajana where she was born, her family, friends and police suggest that far from being a victim, her international recognition meant she enjoyed celebrity status whenever she returned home.
Her widowed mother Iqbal Bibi, 72, kissed her picture and said: “She is safe here but if she is happy in England — and the people are very kind to her, she says — then her happiness is our happiness.”
The deputy superintendent of police, Aslam Shankar, said he would guarantee Miss Zainab’s safety if she returned. “She is a big shot now in Pakistan and I would offer her the protection her position merits.”
It was after a 15-day trip to Britain carrying out promotional work in June 2006 that Miss Zainab, who had a two-year visitor’s visa, lodged her asylum claim and was given a council flat in Stockport, together with £40 a week in benefits. Her request to stay took family and friends by surprise because in recent years she had used her height to earn money, making dozens of public appearances in her own country and abroad.
In Mandi Rajana, family friend Ghulam Mustafa said: “She was teased when she was younger but it has been no problem for at least eight years. She is safe if she returns but life is very hard here. It is nothing like England, which is more comfortable.”
Miss Zainab, who has moved to a house in Manchester, speaks little English. Through an interpreter, she said she believed her application would be successful and added that she was living in a free house with free medical treatment and a ‘generous’ allowance.