Author: Chris Foote
The Scottish Government has intervened to help a woman who faces being separated from her family by immigration officials.
Olya Merry, from Coatbridge, Lanarkshire, has been ordered to leave the UK by the Home Office.
The mother-of-one, from Belarus, applied for permanent residency in 2015 but her request was rejected and after two years of appeals she faces being deported.
The 28-year-old was given until Wednesday to leave but her case has now been taken up by MSP Fiona Hyslop, who has written to home secretary Amber Rudd.
“The Scottish Government remains deeply concerned that the restrictions on family migration are having a damaging impact on many ordinary, hard-working Scottish citizens,” she wrote.
“We call for a different approach to family migration,” she added. “To improve the rights of people in Scotland and the UK to bring close family into the country with them.”
Olya, who worked as an English teacher in Belarus, says she was advised to take the so-called “Surrinder Singh Route” to get permission to live in the UK.
It allows foreign spouses of UK citizens to apply for a family permit or residence card under European Union rules.
It requires couples to live together and in an EU country outside the UK first but removes the need for an English test and does not require the couple to earn the minimum £18,600 a year.
The Merry’s moved to Ireland in February 2015 before returning to Scotland to have their daughter Milana after five months.
Home Office officials say they do not believe that the family’s stay in Ireland fulfilled the requirements needed to get a UK resident card.
Ms Merry said: “I love the people here and I have made absolutely fantastic friends.
“I am so depressed about it. I just want a normal life with my family here but I am not allowed.
“I can’t even imagine having to go back to Belarus. I don’t even want to think about it. It’s heartbreaking.”
While living in Ireland the pair secured jobs in County Cork – Derek worked in Aldi and Olya worked at a communications company – and had a home and car.
They planned to stay in Ireland for a few years, but when Olya fell pregnant with daughter they decided to travel back to Scotland for her birth.
When they returned on a family permit in July 2015, Olya applied for a resident card.
But the application was rejected by Home Office officials who said their move to Ireland was “not genuine”.