Family to be torn apart by red tape
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