A married couple forced to live apart because of Brexit claim their lives have been thrown into limbo.
Corinne Giles, from South Africa, lives in County Donegal in the Republic of Ireland while her British husband, Brett, is based in Londonderry – 25 miles away.
The pair have been waiting five months for a family permit that would allow them to live together in the United Kingdom.
Corinne, an A&E doctor who worked on the frontline of the pandemic, told the Guardian she was in a “constant state of anxiety” and is “living out of a suitcase”. She is out of a job because she felt she could not extend her contract in Ireland as she would be emigrating to the UK.
‘Kept in the dark’
But, eight months on, she faces having to return to South Africa when her residency rights come to an end. If she is caught entering Northern Ireland illegally, she risks deportation.
Corrinne, a South African who has worked on the Covid front line in Ireland as an A&E doctor & Brett Giles live 25 miles apart in Donegal and Derry counties respectively, but Corinne has been waiting months for a family permit to join her British husband. https://t.co/md9GsdUSvy— Fionna O’Leary, ??? (@fascinatorfun) August 30, 2021
“I’m absolutely emotionally drained and exhausted mentally and physically,” she said. “I’m living in this constant state of anxiety every day, checking emails that will determine my future.
“All the time the gap in my working career is growing substantially. Being kept in the dark with absolutely no feedback or communication from the Home Office is absolute torture. I never in my wildest dreams thought that two years after coming to Europe, I would be sitting on the couch, unemployed, disillusioned, disheartened.
“All I want is a normal life. Also all my family are in the UK, my brothers, my sisters, my mum, and I’m completely alone in a foreign environment and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for me to continue this life.”
The couple moved to the Republic of Ireland in 2019 after 15 years in South Africa, wanting to be closer to family in the UK.
“We left South Africa in the hope of a better future for us. To separate us has been very traumatic,” Corrinne told BBC Radio Ulster’s Good Morning Ulster programme. “I don’t know what the future holds for us.”
They said the wait was “incredibly frustrating”, adding that the Home Office had offered little information.
“It’s incredibly complicated and confusing,” said Brett. “I am extremely disappointed… It’s absolutely shocking, it’s despicable.
“Has anyone actually looked at our application? It’s that sort of feeling, that no one really cares about you.”
Colum Eastwood – Brett’s MP – said the couple had been met with “obstinacy from the Home Office at every turn”, and questioned “how the Home Office cannot… carry out the necessary checks in this timeframe”.
‘Hostile and obfuscatory’
The Labour MP Peter Kyle, who has a constituent in a similar position, told the Guardian: “The government has entirely forgotten that they are [here] to serve British citizens.”
“To be so hostile and obfuscatory towards a British citizen, to make it difficult for a British citizen to even get information on how to resolve a situation caused by government policy, is borderline unconstitutional,” he added.
A Home Office spokesperson said: “Eligible family members ofBritish citizens returning with them to the UK from the EU should apply for an EU Settlement Scheme family permit. Each case is considered as quickly as possible and on its individual merits but processing times can vary depending on the volume and complexity of applications.”