Johannesburg – Gail Freathy has never spent more than a day or two away from her husband Paul in 13 years. Now the Joburg-born woman is praying for a miracle after she was given 28 days to pack up her life and get out of the UK.
Freathy is hoping that a meeting with the UK Home Secretary will give her a stay in her deportation that is scheduled for this month.
Last month, she was told by the British Home Office that she had 28 days to pack up and leave the country after her visa application was refused. If she is forced to leave, she will be separated from Paul and will have to sell the photographic shop they have been running in Torquay.
Freathy moved to the UK with her British-born husband in 2013 on a two-and a-half-year spousal visa. They bought their shop with their life savings.
But because the couple bought their business, Freathy had to change to a family visa. She and her husband ploughed all their profits back into their business.
According to the UK Home Office website, the applicant of a family visa has to earn a salary of £18 600 (about R308 000). The new stipulations came into effect on 2013.
The Freathys said the Home Office didn’t accept their explanation that they hadn’t drawn a salary, but had made profit.
When the consultancy dealing with her application realised that Freathy would not get her family visa renewed, it suggested that she appeal on human rights grounds.
“I wrote to them about Paul’s health and that he would battle to find work in South Africa, and mentioned the crime that we experienced while living in South Africa. It was a good application, but it was turned down,” Freathy said.
The couple said they had moved to the UK after experiencing a house robbery and a hijacking. “The problem is that you can’t phone anyone at the Home Office, you can only write letters to them.You can only appeal the decision outside of the country.”
Freathy’s letter informing her that she must leave the country is dated January 21. When she does leave, she was told that she would have to phone a number so that a Home Office official is dispatched to escort her to the aircraft. It is then that her passport would be returned to her.
It is because she didn’t have her passport that she was unable to attend her daughter’s wedding last month.
Freathy’s story has been covered extensively by the British media, and her community, she said, has come out in support of her staying. There is even a fund-raising campaign.
Yesterday, she had a meeting with Member of Parliament Dr Sarah Wollaston. “It was very encouraging, she asked us to collect all our information so she can go to the home secretary,” said Freathy, who hoped that while her application is reviewed, she would be able to remain the UK.
Her fear is that if she had to move back to South Africa, Paul would battle to run their business on his own. He suffers from diabetes. The plan was that her daughter, who has a British passport, might go to the UK to help Paul.
The couple are also worried about their pets; they have a 13-year-old dog that she feared might not handle the move back to South Africa. “But hopefully we will know next week when our MP will be meeting the secretary of state.”
Joburg woman told to leave UK – Independent Online