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Family’s desperate fight against Home Office to stay in Scotland

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Author: thenational.scot

The 28-year-old moved to Scotland from Georgia at the age of 16, following her father David, who had secured refugee status on political grounds.

Now she faces removal to the country of her birth with sons Gabrieli, four, and three-year-old Vato, and partner Akaki Sidamonidze, 31, who is also a Georgian national.

“They are my life,” says David, squeezing his grandsons, “I cannot lose them.”

Immigration officials have rejected the family’s application to remain on several counts, one being that the Glasgow-born boys do not have British citizenship because their parents don’t, and, with birthdays looming, haven’t spent the minimum seven years in the UK.

An official letter warns the family – who have the backing of the Church of Scotland – to leave the UK within 28 days, or face potential detention and removal.


But Gabrieli has a heart murmur caused by a congenital defect, and requires regular appointments with specialists, and one expert says neglecting this fact would be “inhumane”.

Meanwhile, Akaki, a university graduate and IT specialist, has already spent one week in Dungavel, Scotland’s only immigration removal centre, and fears having to return.

“I live constantly under this pressure,” he tells the Sunday National. “I want to raise my kids here and I promise they will be good persons and nice people for Scotland, for the UK.”

Teenage sweethearts, Akaki and Nino continued a long-distance relationship after Nino emigrated in 2007. The pair married in Georgia in 2012, after which Nino returned to Scotland to wait for Akaki’s visa to come through. But when this was rejected twice, he paid a trafficker €4500 and got into the back of lorry. Arriving in the UK after a “terrible” journey, he reported to the Home Office and has been seeking permission to remain ever since.

“I had no choice,” he says of his decision. “Our love is a true love, it was too hard to be apart. I went voluntarily to the Home Office so they would know about me. I told them everything I did, I have kept nothing secret.

“In my life I have never done bad things. I’m a peaceful, educated man who wants to work and live as a human being.”

For his six years in Scotland, Akaki has been barred from working and is reliant on father-in-law David, a restaurant worker, for support – something he says has left him as more of a friend to his children than a father.

“A man should go in the morning and come back with money to buy things and support his family,” he says. “I’m not like a daddy, I’m just like a friend. I will do any job, I will pay taxes.”

That willingness to work has seen him offer to paint and re-roof Springburn Parish Church, which provides pastoral care to the Georgian community and is used by the Georgian Orthodox Church for its services.

Reverend Brian Casey says removing the family “would be criminal”. “It seems wrong that these children, who were born in Scotland, could be sent to another country,” he says. “It breaks my heart.”

NINO says it’s hard to imagine separating her boys from their cousins, who they emulate and idolise. “They’re more like brothers because they see each other every day,” the former bakery worker says.

Tracy Kirk, law lecturer at Glasgow Caledonian University, says the family’s situation is proof that children’s rights are not embedded in immigration and asylum rules.

“We have children who have been born here in Scotland,” she states.

“When you add in a heart problem, you think ‘how could you possibly justify throwing this family out?’ People assume if someone was born here, they can stay, but that’s not true. This is a really big children’s rights issue.

“There is something very inhumane about the way the Home Office operates. People are shocked when you talk about these sorts of stories.


“Immigration and asylum law is not an area that is very well-known. There aren’t as many practitioners who specialise in it. Often there is confusion about the law that governs the practice of immigration and asylum and procedures utilised by the Home Office.”

Some of the family’s applications to the Home Office were denied on the grounds that they could not afford the fees, something Kirk rails against. “We don’t determine whether children have rights based on how much money they have in their bank accounts to pay the astronomical fees of the immigration department,” she states.

n her recent SNP conference speech, Nicola Sturgeon committed to embedding the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into Scots law. However, Kirk says that may not be possible unless Holyrood gains controls over immigration, as failure to devolve this would mean some legislation does not cover youngsters who are not UK nationals.

“We have to do something so we can have some control over all those who are in Scotland,” she says. “We may have a referendum in 2021, but we can’t wait until then.”

Alexander Heeps, from the family’s legal team at Glasgow law firm McGlashan MacKay, says the rejection hinges on the timing of the couple’s marriage.

Under immigration rules, Nino is deemed to have formed another family, something which counted against her applications for permanent status.

Despite her long residence, she was only ever given a succession of temporary permissions.

The team is now considering its next steps. Meanwhile, despite the 28-day notice, the Home Office has scheduled its next meeting with Nino and Akaki for a year from now.

“That means they are not top of the Home Office priority list,” Heeps says. “Because Nino got married, the Home Office said ‘we don’t regard you as part of this family, so you are not eligible to apply for settlement’.

“The decision is really harsh for the family. We don’t think it’s proportionate and we think they should at least be given the chance to appeal further.

“There has to be some degree of compassion. Perhaps the Home Office has its own interpretation of what a family is.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”

Source: https://www.thenational.scot/news/17619114.familys-desperate-fight-against-home-office-to-stay-in-scotland/

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