Sunderland mum fears her family being split up as husband faces being deported to Australia

Alison and Jeff Atkinson-Phillips
Alison and Jeff Atkinson-Phillips
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A Sunderland-born woman fears her family being split up following a Home Office decision to deport her husband.

Alison Atkinson-Phillips and her husband Jeff have been told he must return to Australia - or he will be deported.

Alison Atkinson-Phillips and son Tijaan while hiking Hadrian's Wall earlier this year

Alison Atkinson-Phillips and son Tijaan while hiking Hadrian's Wall earlier this year

Now desperate to keep their family together, the couple, who have two children Tijaan, 19, and Mia, 13, have launched an online petition which has already gained more than 1,500 signatures.

They initially returned to the UK at the beginning of the year when Alison took on a new role at Newcastle University.

Alison, 42, grew up in Southwick and Roker before her parents moved to Perth, Australia, when she was 13.

The mum-of-two was delighted when she was offered a research post at the newly-formed Oral History Unit & Collective at the university.

She said: “At the time it seemed like the stars had aligned.

“When you’re specialised with a PhD, the jobs that fit your field and skills are pretty small.

“This was an amazing position - it was in my field, it was in the north east and researching the local area which was exciting for me.”

The family, who now live in Newcastle, accompanied Alison but because of UK visa rules requiring a sponsor to have worked in the UK for six months, Jeff came initially on a tourist visa.

Having sought guidance from Citizens Advice, Jeff, 42, applied for leave to remain in the UK, but has now been refused on the grounds that there is no strong reason why the family could not return to Australia.

The couple, who married in 2002, were given 14 days to appeal the decision.

Alison, who attended Redby Primary School and Monkwearmouth Comprehensive School in Sunderland, was at work when Jeff called with the news on Wednesday October 3.

“When I got the phone call I was shaking, said Alison. “I had to do my work so I tried not to think about it.

“It was when I got home that it hit me properly.

“I’m trying really hard to be reasonable about it. I get that there is a process and a system, but I’m a British citizen and my two children are British citizens.

“We’ve been married for 16 years now so there’s no question if the relationship is fake.

“It makes me quite angry that we are put in this position really.”

She added: “I find it very upsetting that my country of birth doesn’t seem to care about keeping me or my children here, or value the contribution we are able to make to the UK.

“The Home Office may think there are no insurmountable obstacles to us upping sticks and moving halfway around the world, but we see things differently.

“I do not want to give up my job or have to move the kids now they are settled here.”

Jeff has a chronic pain condition which means he cannot work, but Alison’s wage meets the required income threshold, so there is no concern about a cost to the UK government.

Daughter Mia, 13, attends Heaton Manor School and Jeff is her primary caregiver and has been for most of her childhood.

The couple previously lived in Manchester for two years from 2002 and Tijaan started school in the UK before they moved back to Perth.

Alison is a member of the University and College Union (UCU), which has written to Home Secretary Sajid Javid asking him to intervene to ensure the family can remain together in the UK.

The union said that the case suggested that, despite the Home Secretary saying the Home Office’s “hostile environment” era was over, its legacy appeared to live on.

UCU head of policy and campaigns Matt Waddup said: “This case risks sending another worrying message to the rest of the world that the UK is not open for business.

“We have written to the Home Secretary and hope he will intervene so families are not forced to leave the UK just to stay together. Sajid Javid may say the Home Office no longer operates a “hostile environment” policy, but this case suggests that legacy lives on.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We are currently reviewing our decision in this case.”

To sign their petition click here.