The government is attempting to deport a frail 92-year-old lady who is currently being cared for by her daughter.
In 2014 Myrtle Cothill was brought to Britain from Natal, South Africa, by her 66-year-old daughter Mary Wills on a six-month visitor visa. Cothill had previously flown to Britain to visit Wills every other Christmas, but Wills decided to care for her here after being told by friends her mother's health had deteriorated and that she was becoming very weak.
Wills told BuzzFeed News: "There is no way I could send her back – she was exhausted when she arrived and has no family left in South Africa."
Wills and her husband have lived in Britain for many years, which she thought meant Cothill would be allowed to stay with them. It had been the case that British nationals and those with indefinite leave to remain could be joined by parents or grandparents over 65 as long as they gave them accommodation and financial support. However, this law was changed in 2012 and the barriers to entry now prohibit Cothill from staying.
Her lawyer has posted an online petition asking for Cothill to be given leave to remain. In it, he explains the challenges she faces:
Suffering from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and macular degeneration causing sight loss, Myrtle cannot walk unaided, has a chronic cough, poor vision, is hard of hearing and is experiencing increasing confusion. She is unable to care or cook for herself and relies on her daughter Mary for emotional and physical support: Mary helps her mother with her personal care, housework, cooking and shopping.
But despite these health challenges, Cothill is not legally allowed to remain in the country. The law as it now stands means elderly relatives can only come to the UK if the level of care they require can only be provided in the UK – unless the care in their country is more expensive than in the UK (or not available), they are not allowed to stay.
After two failed legal appeals, Wills said, she began to be bombarded with letters and emails from outsourcing contractor Capita regarding her visa, including later saying it would "enforce removal" of Cothill. The communications only ceased after Wills' husband, David, lodged a third appeal on her behalf.
Wills said the legal process prior to this had been "harsh" on her mother: "She was alone in the courtroom with the judge, she's hard of hearing, and with the speed of his talking, I don't think she was picking up everything her asked her. ... He said she was exaggerating and dismissed her case."
Wills told BuzzFeed News that she and her husband could not go back to South Africa with her mother – he suffers from Parkinson's disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease which affects his ability to travel, and she believes Cothill's health has deteriorated so quickly she would be "signing my mother's death certificate" if she put her on a plane.
She said the government's treatment of Cothill had "made her feel terrible". She added: "We're not over the feeling that there's going to be a knock at the door. They will have to handcuff me or kill me before they touch my mum."
Wills' lawyer has written that if Cothill was deported it "would rip the family apart and leave them broken-hearted." He described the stringent new laws around adult-dependent relatives as "[leading] to unspeakable heartache" and said it "undermines the very essence of family values".
Wills said: "All I wish is that [home secretary] Theresa May would look at it with compassion".
A Home Office spokesperson said: "All applications are considered on their individual merits, including any exceptional or compassionate circumstances, and in line with the Immigration Rules.
"The decision made on this case has been upheld by two separate, independent tribunals which considered the full range of evidence presented."
Alan White is a news editor for BuzzFeed News and is based in London.
Contact Alan White at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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