Friday, February 21, 2014
A husband and wife locked in a “nightmare” immigration battle are fighting to stay together on the Norfolk coast.
More than 400 people have signed a petition backing Newport couple Arlene and Stephen Watty in their struggle against deportation.
Forty-five-year-old Arlene, who works full time at a care home in Hemsby, moved to the UK from the Philippines in 2009.
She arrived on a student visa, studying health and social care, and a year later fell in love with a neighbour, Stephen, and the couple married in 2012.
As her student visa expired, Arlene applied for leave to remain - the common route for foreign nationals who marry British citizens.
But her application was refused and now the couple have now lost their appeal. Two weeks ago, a Home Office judge ruled that sending Arlene back would not be “disproportionate or unjustifiably harsh” and the couple, if they want to stay together, could leave Britain and live in the Philippines.
“I do not want to be separated from my husband,” said Arlene.
“If I have to go back to the Philippines, it could take years for my application to be dealt with.
“And if I am not here, will they support my husband? If he becomes ill, will they help him? He needs the support of people who love him.”
When the couple met in 2010, Mr Watty was unemployed, suffering from depression and alcohol dependency.
Since meeting his wife he has turned his life around, recovered his health and started his own fencing and panelling business.
“When I met Stephen, he had his problems but I saw the goodness in him,” said Arlene.
“We had our ups and downs, like every couple, and we’ve had to work at it but we made it. I never expected to fall in love, not at my age, but I did and all I want is to be with my husband.”
The couple said the support from neighbours in the recent months had been “amazing”.
“We had people knocking on our door asking to sign the petition, even offering to come to court with us,” said Arlene.
While the Home Office judge ruled “there is nothing to prevent [the couple] going on holiday to make the application and then returning”, the Watty’s believe it could take years for the red tape to be lifted because of a backlog of applications in the Philippines.
And that is why they have vowed to keep going and on Tuesday lodged a fresh appeal.
“I will do anything to keep my wife here,” said Stephen.
“If we are refused again, we can go the higher court. But we are coming to the end of the line and it is costing us a lot of money.
“But four years ago I wasn’t in any position to even try. It is only through my wife’s strength and determination that we’re here.
“I came to Yarmouth with £10 in my pocket and just a suitcase. I was an alcoholic and I was severely depressed.
“Today I’ve got an incredible wife, I’ve the respect of the local community, I run my own business, and I have two cars in the driveway.
“I am in contact with my son for the first time in 10 years and my brother is looking to move here from Essex and help with the business.
“I have completely turned my life around.
“To then be told that your country doesn’t want you, it’s a kick in the stomach.
“I’m just a normal bloke and we both work hard but I feel like we’re not wanted here.”
A Home Office spokesman said: “The decision to refuse the application was made in line with the immigration rules and has been upheld by an independent immigration judge.
“The Home Office considers each application to remain in the UK on its individual merits and according to the evidence provided.”
Can you offer support or help Mr and Mrs Watty? Email firstname.lastname@example.org.