Family hope 'common sense will prevail' as they fight deportation


A father whose family face deportation from the UK has said he hopes "common sense will prevail" and they will be allowed to remain in the country.

Gregg Brain, who moved from Australia to Dingwall in the Scottish Highlands with wife Kathryn and their son Lachlan in 2011, said they have been "absolutely floored" by the support received from the local community and across the political spectrum.

The father and son came to Scotland as dependants of Mrs Brain, who was on a student visa at a time when a two-year post-study visa was in existence - but it was later abolished.

The family, who have been given leave to remain until next Tuesday, hope a job offer made to Mrs Brain by GlenWyvis distillery in Dingwall will meet visa requirements and allow them to stay.

They met with Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon on Thursday, who promised to do everything in her power to help.

Mr Brain said they are in the process of resubmitting a visa application in light of the job offer but have "significant doubts" as to whether it will be possible to pull the paperwork together in time.

UK Immigration Minister James Brokenshire, who is due to discuss the case further with Ross, Skye and Lochaber SNP MP Ian Blackford, has told the Commons the family face no ''imminent risk of immediate deportation''.

Mr Brain said: "Ideally what we would like is for the Home Office to live up to what they promised when we came here and to give us two years to be able to establish our value to an employer, to convince them that we're worth the headache and the expense of going through a sponsorship licence process, but if we can't get that then, yes, at least the time that it would take to get the sponsorship process rolling.

"I'm hopeful that common sense will prevail and that the Home Office will realise that any immigration policy must be set to allow people in who are a net asset to the national interest, and we have a family here who have been working, paying their own way, not relying on taxes, who are willing to live and work in what is a comparatively sparsely populated and economically depressed area of the country.

"(Home Secretary) Theresa May said last year that she would welcome immigrants who are willing to culturally assimilate and pay their own way. I would like to think that the Home Office... will now make the right decision and allow us to stay so that we can continue to contribute."

Mr Brain said he is grateful that seven-year-old Lachlan, whose first language is Gaelic, does not fully comprehend the potential upheaval the family face.

He said they have been "absolutely amazed" by the support of the local community and politicians from all parties, adding that he hopes it will help other families in similar situations.

He said: "We've been absolutely floored, we had no idea that it would generate this level of interest. What we're hopeful for is that a rising tide will lift all ships.

"The generosity and the openness of the people in our villages around us, the wider community, has been just absolutely overwhelming. I keep using the word overwhelming but I can't think of anything else."

Speaking after the meeting, Ms Sturgeon said: "I've assured the Brain family that the Scottish Government will do everything it can to support them in their attempt to get the time that they always thought they would have to get jobs here, the right to stay here and continue to make a contribution to Scotland.

"This is a family that came here in good faith, sold up everything in Australia, came under a scheme that was promoted by the Scottish Government at that time and backed by the UK Government.

"They fully expected that they would have the two-year post-study visa in order to allow them to secure work here.

"The problem is the UK Government changed the rules before they had the chance to benefit from what they thought that they would benefit from.

"So there's a sense of natural justice here, as well as the human element.

"This is a family that has contributed a huge amount to Scotland.

"Their wee boy has virtually grown up here, he is a Gaelic speaker, he is to all intents and purposes Scottish, so I think it would be tragic to see them have to leave when they are actually so close to gaining the employment that would enable them to continue making that contribution."

Ms Sturgeon said she had written to Home Secretary Theresa May when she first was made aware of the family's plight but had not received a response.

She said: "I will now write to her again - the Brains need more time to work on their application and secure the jobs they want so they can continue to be contributing members of Scottish society.

"The Home Office must look again at their approach to migration to ensure it best meets the specific needs of Scotland. This case is the perfect example of why.

"The UK Government must act and must act now."

Speaking after a meeting with Home Office staff, the family's MP Mr Blackford said: "I am very grateful to James Brokenshire for meeting with me to discuss the Brain family's case and he has assured me that he will do everything he can to support and assist them.

"Kathryn has been offered a job at GlenWyvis Distillery in the Highlands where her role will be to attract funding for the start-up company, which will in turn lead to further investment and jobs for the area. So now it is not just vital for the Brain family that they are allowed to remain in Scotland but it is also important for prosperity and future employment in the Highlands.

"Unfortunately, the Brain family have suffered a breach of trust at the hands of the UK government - Kathryn, Gregg and Lachlan are exactly what we need in the Highlands to grow and sustain our economy and the UK government should show some compassion by allowing them to stay in Scotland."