‘Shame­ful’ sys­tem sees Lag­gan fam­ily or­dered back to Canada

The Oban Times - - News - MONICA GIB­SON mgib­son@oban­times.co.uk

We don’t want to leave but we have de­cided the fight is fu­tile Ja­son Ziels­dorf

A FAM­ILY who put their life sav­ings and am­bi­tions into run­ning Lag­gan’s only store are be­ing sent back to Canada next month.

Ja­son and Christy Ziels­dorf ar­rived in Scot­land in 2008. More re­cently and with their five chil­dren, the Ziels­dorfs have owned and run the Lag­gan Stores, bothy and hol­i­day let.

Over the past year, how­ever, the fam­ily has been em­broiled in a ‘bu­reau­cratic night­mare’ with the Home Of­fice re­gard­ing their de­sire to stay in the coun­try, as re­ported by The Oban Times in June 2016.

On April 14 this year, the Ziels­dorfs were forced to an­nounce to their cus­tomers that the shop will no longer be open for busi­ness as their ef­forts to ob­tain an ex­ten­sion to their en­tre­pre­neur­ial visa al­low­ing them to stay in Scot­land had been un­suc­cess­ful. Mr Ziels­dorf told the Lochaber

Times: ‘This was our plan, our liveli­hood and our fu­ture. We didn’t have a plan b,c, d, e or f but this is not a de­ci­sion that ef­fects just us. We serve the el­derly and young peo­ple who have just moved to this re­mote area. What does it say to them?

‘It is so frus­trat­ing be­cause our cus­tomers are great. This is not a story about the demise of a ru­ral shop. Last week was one of our best and busiest and yet the whole time we are think­ing, we are hav­ing to give this up.’

Mr Ziels­dorf claimed that through­out the ap­pli­ca­tion process, the Home Of­fice had not been in­ter­ested in their cir­cum­stances but its de­ci­sion to re­voke his wife’s driv­ing li­cence was a cru­cial fac­tor in the fam­ily’s fight com­ing to an end.

He said: ‘The Home Of­fice have us on that plane on May 4. We don’t want to leave but we have de­cided the fight is fu­tile. Be­fore Christ­mas we heard of a fam­ily from the US liv­ing in Nairn who had what we are ap­ply­ing for but were then de­nied per­mis­sion to stay full time. These peo­ple had done ev­ery­thing that was asked of them but it still was not enough. Then in Jan­uary, they [ Home Of­fice] took away my wife’s li­cence. I thought they had a mod­icum of sense or good­will but, no, we were left hav­ing to pay other com­pa­nies over the odds to have our goods de­liv­ered to a ru­ral area with no pub­lic trans­port for eight miles.’

The Ziel­dorfs had been hop­ing to sell the shop be­fore leav­ing. Although there are some in­ter­ested buy­ers, a deal still hasn’t gone through. ‘ We didn’t even know where to pick when they asked where should our things be sent,’ said mr Ziel­dorf. ‘ We chose Toronto be­cause it is cen­tral. We are a strong fam­ily but the im­pact on the chil­dren won’t re­ally be felt un­til we leave. When we get to Canada we are go­ing to have to take some time to re­build our­selves. We have lost our happy ever af­ter and our fi­nan­cial means. All our as­sets are here but with the shop not op­er­at­ing it is cost­ing me a third more to in­sure the build­ing. Time wise, noth­ing is work­ing out in our favour.’

While feel­ing let down by the sys­tem, Ja­son thanked MP Drew Hendry’s ef­forts as staunch de­fender and ad­vo­cate. The fam­ily was also ‘touched’ by an on­line pe­ti­tion cam­paign­ing for their visa ap­proval which re­ceived more than 3,000 sig­na­tures.

Coun­cil­lor for Caol and Mal­laig Ben Thomp­son de­scribed the sit­u­a­tion as shame­ful, mean­while Kate Forbes, MSP for Lochaber, said: ‘When an im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy starts de­port­ing our lo­cal fam­i­lies, it can­not be right. I’m dis­gusted by the num­ber of peo­ple in the High­lands who have found them­selves at the mercy of the UK Gov­ern­ment’s ir­ra­tional pol­icy on im­mi­gra­tion.

‘The Ziels­dorfs have lived with un­cer­tainty for over a year. I’ve met them and vis­ited their shop and cafe. They in­vested thou­sands of pounds to turn the small busi­ness into an as­set for Lag­gan. The re­ward meted out by the UK Gov­ern­ment for mov­ing to Scot­land, bring­ing chil­dren into a High­land vil­lage and in­vest­ing in a small busi­ness is de­por­ta­tion. We need an im­mi­gra­tion pol­icy that doesn’t dam­age the High­lands.’

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