Remona and Johnson are from Tamil Nadu in India. They have lived in the UK for over seven years and all three of their children have been born here since they emigrated. Johnson used to be a merchant seaman for the Indian navy and is highly educated. He had moved to the UK with Remona to study and was working towards an MBA in order to become a business consultant.
Both Johnson and Remona were legally living in the UK through Johnson’s student visa. However, their immigration struggle began three years ago when Johnson was detained at Gatwick airport on a return trip from India.
Remona is registered disabled, due to a visual impairment, and is therefore unable to work. In order to support Remona and their then two children Johnson had been working more than the twenty hours allowed by his student visa. Johnson appealed to the immigration officers at Gatwick Airport, saying:
“My wife is disabled and I have two children, you need to let me go! Even if you send me back you can’t just send me, you’ll have to send us back as a family unit.”
But his pleas fell on deaf ears and Remona frantically searched for a solicitor who could help them. The couple had to pay a solicitor to get Johnson’s case deferred, which allowed him to leave the detention centre. However, on leaving Johnson received notification that he no longer had the right to work in the UK, and would have to report to the Home Office every week while their case was being considered.
Remona and her husband lived off their savings for a time, selling their assets to pay for legal advice. But in 2012 after another refused right to remain letter from the Home Office the couple had run out of money and out of options.
“We had no money and couldn’t go to any more solicitors”, Remona recalls. “But we couldn’t go back to India, my husband hadn’t completed his studies and none of our children could speak Tamil.”
On top of their worries about their children, Remona’s vision had severely deteriorated. The medication she was receiving in the UK wasn’t available in India and Remona feared that without it she would lose her sight completely. She could no longer read or write and the doctors she saw were unsure about why her condition was continuing to worsen.
The couple were referred to the Cardinal Hume Centre and Sophia Barrett took on their case. Sophia supported the couple through a difficult two years fraught with delays to their application and cancelled hearings.
In the meantime the family had fallen into extreme poverty. They were forced to leave their home when they could no longer afford to pay rent and had to appeal to Westminster Children’s Services or risk being made homeless with their children. Thankfully, Children’s Services were able to find emergency accommodation for the family. But the stress really took its toll on Johnson, who was no longer able to pursue his studies and lost all self-confidence.
Sophia was finally able to represent the couple in court in April of this year. It took three months for the judge to reach his decision, which to Remona and Johnson’s great relief was in their favour. The couple then had to wait a further two months for their papers to come through confirming their right to remain.
The whole process had been extremely difficult, but Johnson recalls that, “When we heard the decision was made in our favour we were so excited, we were over the moon!”
“I’ve never been anywhere as helpful as the Cardinal Hume Centre”, says Remona. “If we ever had any doubts, Sophia was there. She told us ‘Don’t worry. It’s a very strong case’. Sophia has been like an angel in our lives. If it wasn’t for Sophia I don’t know what we would have done.”