The Home Office has ordered an Australian family who have been fighting a high-profile case to remain in their adopted home in the Highlands of Scotland to leave the UK.
Gregg and Kathryn Brain emigrated to Dingwall in the north of Scotland with their now 7-year-old son Lachlan in 2011 in the expectation that they would be able to remain in the UK using a post-study work visa. However, that scheme was scrapped by the UK government a year later in 2012.
Their MP, the SNP's Ian Blackford, has been leading the fight for the family to remain in his constituency of Ross, Skye, and Lochaber, but informed the family on Tuesday night that the Home Office had told them to go voluntarily after their leave to remain expired at midnight on Monday.
In a letter to Robert Goodwill, the minister in charge of UK government immigration policy, Blackford said retracting the Brains' right to a post-study work visa after they moved in 2011 was a "breach of faith" and that the UK government was showing a "callous disregard" for the Brains and the Scottish government.
"Let me deal with the issue of fairness," wrote Blackford. "If we were being fair, we would recognise a right to a post study work visa. The minister claims the family arrived after the post study work visa had been removed.
"What he does not say is that when the family received their visa the post study work visa was in place and it was the receipt of their visa that triggered their decision to leave Australia."
The Brains have been living in Dingwall since 2011, during which time Kathryn Brain has been studying at the University of the Highlands and Islands. Since it became clear they would not be able to stay under a post-study work visa, Kathryn Brain has attempted to find suitable work but has so far been unsuccessful.
Blackford said he has now been asked by the Home Office to assist in seeking to arrange the Brains' "voluntary departure" from the UK, but said he will refuse to do the UK government's "dirty work" for it and will continue to attempt to suitable find work for Kathryn Brain.
"As for seeking the help of the local MP to assist in the removal process, it is contemptible," wrote Blackford. "I will not do the government's dirty work for it. Highland history is full of stories of those who assisted with the Highland Clearances, I will certainly not be advocating and supporting a modern day removal of families from the Highlands."
He added: "My duty over the coming days and weeks is to do all I can to assist the family, not coerce the family to leave."
A Home Office source told BuzzFeed News the Brain family will now be expected to leave the UK voluntarily – although there is no set date for them to depart the country – and that the UK government would be able to assist with costs for their return to Australia.
However, the source added that if Blackford and the Brain family don't respond to the request for them to leave, a removal will take place as a last resort.
A Home Office spokesperson said: "We have not received any fresh application from or on behalf of the Brain family which would allow them to stay in the UK.
"We have given the family three extensions on an exceptional basis over a number of months to allow them to try to secure a job that would allow them to meet the immigration rules, but this cannot be open-ended.
"In line with established policy designed to apply evenly and fairly to everyone, anyone who is unable to regularise their stay is expected to leave the UK voluntarily.”
Jamie Ross is a Scotland reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Edinburgh.
Contact Jamie Ross at email@example.com.
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