British pensioner saves his Thai wife from deportation

Published:  6 Aug at 6 PM
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A British citizen’s Thai wife has been saved from deportation by her fast-thinking husband’s actions.

British expat retiree Mark Leonardi met his wife-to-be in Isan’s Khon Kaen City 14 years ago and married her in 2015. The couple spent their time between Thailand and the UK, living in North London during their regular visits. In 2003, two years before he met and fell in love with Ngam Ngon, Mark was diagnosed with kidney disease and received a kidney transplant which failed, leaving him with a permanent need for dialysis. Added to his epilepsy, Mark’s overall medical condition meant his wife became his full-time carer, a task she welcomed.

Sadly, during the couple’s trip to the UK in late December last year, he had a severe seizure which convinced him he should stay in the UK. At a cost of £1,000 he made a spousal visa application for his wife whilst her six-month tourist visa was still valid, but was eventually told the application had been rejected, even although he’d stressed his need for her as a full-time carer. The couple were devastated by the news, especially as an unsympathetic pen-pushing Home Office employee decided Mark’s circumstances weren’t exceptional.

His wife continued as required with her monthly status report visits to immigration until two weeks ago when, without warning, she was arrested, detained and told she was to be deported back to Thailand. Speaking to a reporter from a local London newspaper, Mark said he couldn’t believe what had happened and was fearful for his life given his medical condition. After he was over his immediate shock, Mark took the only way forward by contacting his lawyer and asking him to act. His wife had been taken to the immigration detention centre at Yarls Wood, and was about to be deported last Tuesday when a judicial review decision from a London court prevented her from boarding the plane just two hours before take-off.

Although she’s still in detention, she and her husband have strong support from their local MP as well as from Labour’s Shadow Home Secretary Diane Abbott and the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants. All are questioning immigration’s decision that Mark’s medical condition wasn’t exceptional, but Mark is now without his best friend, trusted carer and loving wife. The legal road ahead may authorise her release from the detention centre, but will be horrendously expensive and slow-moving, with a full judicial High Court hearing unlikely to be held until well into next year. Whether Mark will survive the stress and worry is another question.
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