Fam­ily to be torn apart by red tape

Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser - - Po­lice Ap­peal - Ian Bunting

A Coat­bridge fam­ily face be­ing ripped apart in a mat­ter of days after the Home Of­fice or­dered a stunned Be­larus­sian mum to leave the coun­try.

Volha Merry, known as Olya, has called the town home for five years. She mar­ried hus­band Derek and the cou­ple be­came proud par­ents to daugh­ter Mi­lana in Jan­uary 2016.

But their joy at start­ing a fam­ily has been tem­pered by a con­stant bat­tle against red tape, which in­cluded al­le­ga­tions that their re­la­tion­ship was a sham.

Govern­ment of­fi­cials have or­dered Olya, 28, to re­port to an im­mi­gra­tion cen­tre to­day or face be­ing picked up and de­ported.

Coat­bridge MSP Ful­ton MacGre­gor la­belled the fam­ily’s sit­u­a­tion a “dis­grace” and called on the Home Sec­re­tary to re­verse the de­ci­sion.

Olya, who is flu­ent in five lan­guages, said: “I’m be­ing treated like a crim­i­nal. When I saw the let­ter my jaw dropped.

“I didn’t ex­pect this. How is it pos­si­ble? What have I done?

“We don’t ac­cept this and I don’t know what else a per­son can do but have a job, ac­com­mo­da­tion, a car,

friends and fam­ily as a ba­sis for their life.

“We have faced con­stant ac­cu­sa­tions that our mar­riage was not real. I feel like I am on trial.”

Fac­ing up to the prospect of be­ing sep­a­rated from his wife and daugh­ter, heart­bro­ken Derek added: “My wife will have to leave her British hus­band and British daugh­ter.

“Be­larus not be­ing in the EU does not help ei­ther as the EU cit­i­zens and other na­tions have more rights to bring their spouses to the coun­try but the British do not have those same rights.

“Olya is ab­so­lutely lovely. You couldn’t meet a nicer per­son.

“She loves Mi­lana to bits. If Olya goes our child’s go­ing to have to travel with her.

“There’s no chance of me be­ing able to get a job in Be­larus. I don’t speak the lan­guage, no one speaks English, it’s a poor coun­try and there aren’t many jobs to get.

“I’ll have to con­tinue work­ing here for a year to save. Then we would have to go to an­other EU coun­try.

“But we don’t know what’s go­ing to hap­pen after Brexit.

“Mi­lana’s go­ing to lose one of us. My fam­ily is go­ing to be torn apart.

“You can’t help who you love. This is not fair.”

Olya and su­per­mar­ket em­ployee Derek met through work, with mul­ti­lin­gual Olya act­ing as a trans­la­tor for the for­mer ra­dio pro­ducer.

The cou­ple faced an up­hill bat­tle right from the start. Olya strug­gled to even visit Derek on hol­i­day, with the Home Of­fice say­ing it be­lieved she may not re­turn to Be­larus.

Ac­cu­sa­tions were also made that their re­la­tion­ship was a sham and Olya and Derek de­cided to give up their jobs and homes in Be­larus and Coat­bridge and move to Ire­land, where Derek’s sis­ter lives.

Un­der Home Of­fice rules the Mer­rys were re­quired to stay there for at least three months be­fore re­lo­cat­ing to Scot­land un­der an EU fam­ily per­mit.

Their time in Ire­land came to an end after six months when Olya fell preg­nant with Mi­lana and the cou­ple de­cided to move back to Coat­bridge so their daugh­ter could be born in Scot­land.

But the UK Govern­ment has since re­fused Olya the res­i­dence per­mit she needs to se­cure her fu­ture in Coat­bridge be­cause of­fi­cials claim she and Derek did not do enough to es­tab­lish a “cen­tre of life” in Ire­land.

The stunned cou­ple are now fac­ing up to a fu­ture apart as they at­tempt a fi­nal des­per­ate bid to halt the de­por­ta­tion process.

Coat­bridge MSP Mr MacGre­gor said: “The sit­u­a­tion faced by the Merry fam­ily is a dis­grace.

“They are vic­tims of this UK Govern­ment’s re­lent­less at­tack on the most vul­ner­a­ble.

“The pol­icy is dra­co­nian and I can’t un­der­stand why this Tory govern­ment think it is ac­cept­able to split up fam­i­lies and par­ents from their chil­dren, in this case be­cause they deem that Mr Merry doesn’t have a high enough wage.

“I’ll con­tinue to sup­port the fam­ily in any way that I can and I’m calling on the Home Sec­re­tary to re­verse this de­ci­sion and let Mrs Merry stay in Scot­land to bring up her daugh­ter in the coun­try where she was born.”

De­por­ta­tion threat Derek and Olya cel­e­brated the ar­rival of daugh­ter Mi­lana in 2016

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