US man blocked from visiting wife and children in UK after being detained en route

‘We’re absolutely devastated. He just wants to see his kids. My youngest was six weeks old when he last saw him’

May Bulman
Social Affairs Correspondent
Monday 09 September 2019 22:20
Son of American man cries due to his dad being blocked from visiting wife and kids in UK on his birthday

An American man has been blocked from spending his birthday with his wife and three young children after immigration officials in Dublin refused to grant him entry to the country, meaning he couldn't continue his journey to Northern Ireland.

Kylie Crawford, 32, said she was “heartbroken” when her husband, Ryan Volrath, was detained at Dublin airport on Sunday, thwarting the couple’s plan to surprise their three young sons with his arrival at their home in County Tyrone.

He was placed on a flight to Atlanta on Monday morning after immigration officials claimed there was a risk he could try to overstay his visit visa.

The family had lived in the US for 10 years before they decided to move to Ms Crawford’s home country Northern Ireland last September. Mr Volrath, a carpenter, came on a six-month visit visa in the belief that he would be able to obtain a spouse visa so that they could settle as a family.

But they hadn’t realised that the minimum income requirements would mean Ms Crawford would have to earn more than £18,600 for her husband to join them, which she said was “impossible” with three young children, including a 10-month-old, to look after alone.

Flynn, aged six, Foster, aged three, and Donavon, aged 10 months, haven't seen their father since January

Mr Volrath went back to the US and is now working there and sending money to his wife until they are able to obtain a visa. He had planned to visit his family for 10 days over his birthday before he was blocked at the airport.

A video posted by Ms Crawford on Twitter shows her three-year-old son Foster burst into tears when she told him her couldn’t speak with his father on the phone on Sunday, and says between sobs: “I want Daddy to come home.”

Ms Crawford, a photographer, told The Independent she hadn’t slept since discovering that her husband was being held by the immigration authorities. She travelled to Dublin on Sunday in a desperate bid to stop Mr Volrath from being sent back to the US.

“I was messaging him. It was saying he was online but it was the officers who were reading his messages. And then I called and it just hung up. I was so worried,” she said.

“We didn’t tell my kids he was coming. We were planning it as a surprise. They were thinking they were going to eat cake and FaceTime Daddy at the same time. We were going to blow out the candle and then Daddy was going to knock on the door. That was our plan. But Dublin airport had other ideas.

“It's heartbreaking. We're absolutely devastated. He just wants to see his kids. He hasn’t seen them since January. My youngest was six weeks old when he last saw him.”

The mother-of-three questioned why immigration officials believed her husband would overstay his visit visa, saying he had a return ticket and a letter from his employer in the US stating when he was due to start back at work in 10 days.

“He obviously can’t work here, he wouldn’t be allowed to access public funds. And we need him to go back to work so he can send me money to live. And the fact that we were hoping to get a spouse visa, why would we risk him overstaying?" she added.

Ms Crawford also questioned the wider immigration rules, saying: “How am I meant to earn £18,600 when raising three kids on my own? How do they expect people to do that? I’m forced to be a single parent. I can’t work so I’m forced to be on benefits, which is not something I’m proud of but I need to in order to survive. My husband sends me whatever he can.

“This is meant to be my home country. But why would I want to now bring my husband here and have my family here when this is how we’re treated off the bat? I wish we had stayed in the US.”

Reacting to the situation, Mary Atkinson, families together campaign officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, said: "The public will be appalled to know what is being done to families in their name.

“All that this family wants to do is build a life together – instead, they are trapped in an impossible situation, unable to be together because of the UK’s family separation laws.

“The government must act immediately to scrap unfair income requirements that tear so many families apart, and make Britain a place that welcomes families like Ryan and Kylie’s.”

A spokesperson for the Irish Naturalisation and Immigration Service (INIS) said it did not comment on individual cases, and that each application for entry to the state was assessed on its own merits.

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