NICOLA Sturgeon has backed a campaign to stop the deportation of two teenage asylum seekers, describing the brothers as a “credit to Scotland”.

Somer and Areeb Umeed Bakhsh, aged 15 and 13, face being returned from Glasgow to Pakistan. They fear for their safety there as they fled the country with their parents in 2012 after their father was said to have received death threats from Islamic extremists due to his Christian faith.

A petition calling on the Home Office not to deport the boys started by the Rev Linda Pollock of Possilpark Parish Church has been signed by more than 85,000 people to date.

Speaking at Holyrood, the First Minister said the Scottish Government would look at what could be done to ensure the family can remain. Maryhill and Springburn MSP Bob Doris raised the case during First Minister’s Questions.

Sturgeon said: “I am very heartened to hear how the local community has rallied round the Bakhsh family and about the response to the Rev Pollock’s petition. I would also like to congratulate Somer and Areeb on what they have achieved in very, very difficult circumstances.

“They are an absolute credit to their parents, their school, their community and, indeed, they are a credit to Scotland. The Scottish Government will continue to look at what appropriate representations we can make.”

The petition was handed over to the UK Government’s Immigration Enforcement Reporting Centre in Glasgow two weeks ago.

The family moved to Scotland from Faisalabad after two friends of the boys’ father were gunned down outside a court. They were accused of writing a pamphlet critical of the Prophet Muhammad that broke blasphemy laws.

It is understood the UK Government has rejected the family’s plea for asylum largely because officials do not believe they would be at risk in Pakistan.

After the petition was handed over, a Home Office spokesman said the UK “has a proud history of granting asylum to those who need our protection and every case is assessed on its merits”.

The Right Rev Susan Brown, Moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland, said: “The story of this family has touched the hearts of tens of thousands of people who want those in authority to know how upset they are that they are being treated so dispassionately.”