IT’S cold in Tirah Valley. Colder than Glasgow.

That’s because of the winter wind that cuts through the beautiful, troubled province, which is part of Pakistan’s mountainous Khyber region, and because staying inside is little respite for many of those living in a place where conflict has crippled infrastructure and left homes without heat.

There’s little in the way of mobile signal, electricity is not guaranteed and investment is scarce.

Tirah Valley is on the border with Afghanistan. People have long crossed that boundary for work and to see relatives on either side, but the Taliban and related groups have also used it, taking refuge in Tirah and building up local power bases.

As many as 250,000 people had fled their homes for UN camps and other shelter long before the Pakistani military began an offensive to drive militants out in 2015.

While many civilians have returned, significant numbers of children are still out of school due to the risks to their safety from extremists who have already targeted classes.

READ MORE: Home Office swiftly dismisses Nicola Sturgeon’s migration proposals

Those missing lessons include Umer, Jafar, Fatma and Mahnoor Afridi, two brothers and two sisters living with their mother Minhaz in an unheated apartment.

Aged five to 14, they haven’t seen their father Naseer for four years.

That’s because the software developer is in Glasgow, where he’d planned to build a life for them all – and still hopes to.

The Home Office says he’s a tax cheat who spent too much time visiting them to qualify for long-term residency in the UK.

The National:

The claim is based on a £6000 error in paperwork filed by his accountant while he was, in his own words, “stuck in Pakistan due to war” during a period which also saw his father pass away.

Afridi’s lawyer Adeel Hussain, of Maguire Solicitors, said he is “optimistic” about the case. “The 322(5) rules have been misapplied,” he said. “There’s no fault on the part of the applicant. This ruins people’s lives.”

The mistake was uncovered and corrected after Afridi – who came to Scotland to study in 2006 – switched to another tax professional. And while the secretary of state can use discretion on time away over compassionate grounds, that hasn’t happened here – even though Afridi’s wife provided an affidavit about their situation.

Meanwhile, without long-term leave to remain, Afridi has had to turn down repeated job offers. Approaches made by headhunters for big-money positions have been seen by the Sunday National.

EXCLUSIVE: Visa row couple in call to scrap income barrier

He’s also unable to bring his family to join him. “If I could do anything, I’d bring my family here and be with them,” Afridi says. “I wouldn’t be able to control my tears.”

Afridi’s backers say the 38-year-old is another victim of the highly skilled migrant scandal, which has seen architects, lawyers, lecturers and surgeons from non-EU countries threatened with deportation under anti-terror laws over accountancy errors. Many of those affected are from Commonwealth states like India and Nigeria and the row has been likened to the Windrush scandal.

The National:

Afridi, who is now waiting for a Court of Session hearing, says he “can’t explain in words” what he and his family have been through. Fighting the Home Office through lawyers has left him £20,000 in debt to friends.

“I’m an honest man,” he tells the Sunday National. “I have studied in this country and I want to be a part of it. I want a good life.

“I know all the computer languages, I have two degrees. I’m not a criminal – I have never got even a parking ticket in 14 years. I’m a scientist, I can work, I can contribute a lot.

“My family, they tell me ‘we want nothing, we just want you’. My daughters keep asking me to educate them. My wife is full of anxiety and stress. She thinks I’m irresponsible because I’m not coming for them, but I’m trying.

“I’m completely broken. I can’t see them, I can’t help them. They are not in school, they are not being educated because it is not safe for them.

“You can’t see what’s going on inside me. I can’t get a job, I can’t build a career and earn to help my family. There’s a shortage of engineers here and employers are looking. I know all computer languages, I am qualified in cyber security.”

Last year a court ruling found the Home Office approach to earnings discrepancy cases had been “legally flawed”, with an attempt made to force almost 1700 people out of the UK within around three years.

The National: Home Office

In October the Home Office spokesperson said its own review found almost 90% of applicants refused under 322(5) had submitted earnings statements which were more than £10,000-a-year off and new guidance had been published.

The National has revealed the stories of other new Scots caught up in the scandal, including Glasgow men Mustafa Ali Baig and Omer Khitaab. Both of them had the support of their MP Alison Thewliss, who has also urged the Home Office to act in Afridi’s case.

The Glasgow Central MP told the Sunday National his situation is “deeply troubling, and once more shows a shocking lack of empathy on the part of the Home Office”.

She went on: “This constituent had travelled to see his young family in Pakistan in 2014, where an armed conflict was ongoing. Due to the severity of the fighting, and the scores of civilians killed, Mr Afridi was understandably concerned for the safety of his children, and was not in a position to fully advise his accountant on how to proceed with his tax affairs.

The National:

“In many cases, 322(5) rules have been applied dishonestly, as the Home Office attempts to portray an individual as deceitful through the application of rules normally reserved for terror-related offences. In many cases that I have seen, the only mistake made by the individual is a trivial miscalculation on their tax return – often on the part of their accountant. To conflate these issues in order to justify someone’s deportation is disturbing, and points to a wider systematic problem at the Home Office. I have urged the Home Secretary to reconsider all outstanding 322(5) cases as a matter of urgency.”

Campaign group Highly Skilled UK accused the Home Office of perpetrating a “terrible injustice” which has “turned some of the most highly educated and skilled migrants into paupers”.

“We are all counting the days until Home Office’s hostile environment which has engulfed our group members will end,” they said. “This is not a way to treat any human being let alone those who were once deemed as the ‘brightest and the best’ and have done their best to contribute to the betterment of the UK.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “It would be inappropriate to comment further while legal proceedings are ongoing.”