A campaign has been launched to stop the family of a Newcastle academic from being split up after the husband faces deportation.
Alison Atkinson-Phillips, who was born in Sunderland and whose children are UK citizens, has been told by the Home Office that her husband Jeff must return to Australia or he will be deported.
The union said that the case suggested that the Home Office’s “hostile environment” legacy appeared to live on – and it warned that 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 calling on the home secretary to reverse the decision and change the rules so UK citizens have the right to return to their home country with family after living overseas.
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 Oral History Unit & Collective at Newcastle University.
Her 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 UK.
Ms Atkinson-Phillips, who is appealing the decision against her husband Jeff, 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.”
Jeff has a chronic plain condition which means he cannot currently work, but he is the primary caregiver for their daughter.
It comes after two Durham University academics faced deportation earlier this year - but it was reversed after a petition opposing the Home Office move was signed by thousands.
Matt Waddup, head of policy and campaigns at UCU, 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.”
A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are currently reviewing our decision in this case.”
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