An Australian family, who have made Scotland their home, faces deportation after the UK Government cancelled their visa category, which was designed to attract young families to areas with ageing populations.
Making Dingwall, near Inverness, their home since 2011, Kathryn and Gregg Brain even had their seven-year-old son learn to speak Gaelic, something many of the local families don’t do. Yet the support of the community, the offer of jobs and the fact that their son has spent more of his life in Scotland than Australia doesn’t look like being enough for the UK Government to extend their stay after 1 August this year.
After two trips to Scotland, the Brains decided to make the move more permanent in 2011, when the deaths of both Kathryn and Gregg’s mothers prompted a lifestyle change. The couple with their young son knew it was time to make the move, as Kathryn says, “When we shared with each other what our mothers had said to us before they died, both told us ‘don’t die with your dreams still inside you’.”
Kathryn was granted a visa to study Scottish History and the family planned to move to a post-study work visa once this course was completed. After the UK Government cancelled post-work study visas in 2012, the family were initially told they would have to head back to Australia today.
The community of Dingwall has fought hard for the couple to remain there, raising money for their legal fees, offering the couple jobs and even calling on Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to plead their case. Although their stay has been extended to 1 August, neither Kathryn nor Gregg will be allowed to work during this time, prompting calls for a government rethink by their local MP, Ian Blackford.
Mr Blackford said of the issue, “I find it utterly incredible that Home Office minister James Brokenshire has decided to extend the Brain family’s right to stay in their home in Scotland but refused to grant them the right to work.
“How does he expect Kathryn, Gregg and Lachlan to make ends meet until the beginning of August while the UK government refuses to allow them to work?
“Both Kathryn and Gregg have secured jobs in the local area, which would benefit the local economy and allow them to continue the enormous contribution that they have already made to life in the Highlands.”
Since the post-study work visa scheme was cancelled in 2012, all five parties involved in Scotland’s political system have supported the reintroduction of the visas in Scotland, citing that the Home Office decision doesn’t reflect the needs of the country, to bring in younger, working families.
Read more at TheGuardian.com
All too often people are heard to complain that those who move to a new country don’t try to assimilate into the community. But this is exactly what Kathryn and Gregg Brain did and it hasn’t made one iota of difference.
Anyone who has ever visited the Scottish Highlands will have a real understanding of how remote and closed some of the communities there can be. While Dingwall (which is actually my ancestral home) is one of the larger towns, it’s by no means a metropolis. This small community has welcomed the Brains as one of their own, largely I suspect because the Brains embraced the local customs.
Yet a decision by some bureaucrat 700 miles away in London has turned the family’s life on its head and the Brains could soon be making their way back to Australia.
The visa scheme was introduced to support an ageing and declining population in the remote areas of Northern Scotland. This is something that many countries, including Australia, face. While our cities are bulging at the seams, our remote areas are struggling to attract younger families and people willing to work and support the community.
The issue of immigrants to the UK and the benefits and work rights to which they are entitled is the key argument which has led to the Brexit vote on whether Britain should remain in the European Union and which will take place on 23 June.
While immigration and the support migrants should receive is a vexed issue for many governments the world over, the decision to cancel schemes that have been created to support a specific need in a country or community should not be taken lightly.
So, to the Brain family, I wish you well in your battle, although I fear the bloody-mindedness of the British Government will see you on your way ‘home’ soon.
Should migration to remote areas, whether they are in the north of Scotland or the centre of Australia be encouraged? Is it unfair that the Brains are being sent back to Australia after making a new in Scotland or is it simply a case of following the established rules?