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UK woman wears wedding gown to protest deportation

A UK woman caught in a fight over her husband's deportation will lead a demonstration of asylum seekers' wives dressed in bridal gowns on the first day of Parliament in October.

Heather Bullen, 32, whose Afghanistan-born husband Shah Wali Mohmend faces being removed from the UK following the failure of his asylum application, started pressure group Brides Without Borders to highlight the issue.

Now the pair, along with 19 other couples from around the country, will wear their wedding outfits to protest outside the House of Commons as MPs return from the summer break on October 10.

"They say your wedding day is one of the happiest days of your life. But for us, the days we are facing now are not happy at all, so people will see that contrast,"she said. "Brides and grooms will be wearing the outfits they wore on their wedding days to really get the message across, and we are thinking of handing out leaflets designed like wedding invitations."

The protest is also designed to highlight the plight of couples who wanted to marry after February this year, but were prevented by legislation allowing the Home Office to decide if marriages to people under immigration control are genuine.

Under the measure, contained in the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 and designed to tackle sham marriages, couples must attend a specially-designated register office where they have to meet strict eligibility criteria before their notice to marry is accepted.

Ms Bullen has vowed to risk her life by following her husband to politically-unstable Afghanistan rather than be separated. She believes a discretionary power of the immigration authorities to recognise citizens' rights under European law is being ignored.

When appealing against deportation, married couples can ask for Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights to be taken into account.

It states: "Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence."

When Mr Mohmend's asylum application failed in July after the couple cited Article 8, he received a Home Office letter stating his "removal to Afghanistan will not interfere with (his) family life" as Ms Bullen could go with him.

However, the Foreign Office website advises against British citizens travelling there because of terrorism, suicide bombings and kidnappings.

Mr Mohmend, who worked as a farmer in Jalalabad, moved to the UK in 2001 and married Ms Bullen last July. A volunteer at the Citizens Advice Bureau, he has not collected benefits since 2003 and is financially supported by his wife.

The couple's appeal against the decision last month was rejected despite 1,000 letters of support and petition signatures from family, friends, community leaders and politicians, including Riverside MP Louise Ellman.