Campaign to stop Newcastle family being split up by deportation

16 October 2018 | last updated: 26 October 2018

A campaign has been launched to stop a Newcastle-based family from being split up following a Home Office decision to deport the husband.

  • University and College Union has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid calling on him to intervene
  • Second deportation case in north-east this year sends "worrying message that UK is shut for business"

The Atkinson-Phillips family was told husband Jeff must return to Australia, otherwise he will be deported. His Sunderland-born wife Alison works at Newcastle University and their two children are UK citizens. The family is appealing the decision.

Alison is a member of the University and College Union (UCU), which has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid asking him to intervene to ensure the family can remain together in the UK.

The union said that the case suggested that, despite the Home Secretary saying the Home Office's "hostile environment" era was over, its legacy appeared to live on. UCU also said the case risked sending a message out to the rest of the world that the UK was unwelcoming and closed for business.

A petition has been launched to ask Sajid Javid to reverse the decision and change the rules so that other UK citizens have the right to return to the UK with their long-term spouse.  

Alison moved to Australia as a teenager, but returned to the north-east with her family in January 2018 to take up a research post at the university. Husband Jeff came initially on a tourist visa and then in August applied for remain to leave in the UK.

However, his application was rejected on the grounds that there are no "insurmountable obstacles" to the family returning to Australia. The rejection letter gave him 14 days to appeal or leave the country.

The Atkinson-Phillips have been living in Newcastle for almost a year. Alison works at the university, their son works in a local pub and their daughter is happy and settled in her new school. Jeff cannot currently work, but Alison's wage meets the required income threshold, so there is no cost to the government of their remaining in the UK.

The Atkinson-Phillips case comes after two Durham University academics also faced deportation earlier this year.

Alison Atkinson-Phillips said: 'I find it very upsetting that my country of birth doesn't seem to care about keeping me or my children here, or value the contribution we are able to make to the UK.

'The Home Office may think there are no insurmountable obstacles to us upping sticks and moving halfway around the world, but we see things differently. I do not want to give up my job or have to move the kids now they are settled here.'

UCU head of policy and campaigns Matt Waddup said: 'This case risks sending another worrying message to the rest of the world that the UK is not open for business.

'We have written to the Home Secretary and hope he will intervene so families are not forced to leave the UK just to stay together. Sajid Javid may say the Home Office no longer operates a "hostile environment" policy, but this case suggests that legacy lives on.'

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