Mexican academics facing deportation allowed to stay in UK

Durham academics Ernesto Schwartz-Marín and his wife Arely Cruz-Santiago were told to leave after spending too long conducting humanitarian work abroad

March 20, 2018
UK border
Source: Getty

The Home Office has reversed its decision to deport two UK-based Mexican academics following a public outcry.

Ernesto Schwartz-Marín, an anthropology researcher at Durham University, and his wife Arely Cruz-Santiago, a researcher in the university’s geography department, have now been granted indefinite leave to remain in the UK after being told they had just 14 days to leave the country.

The Mexican couple, who have lived in the UK for more than a decade with their 11-year-old daughter, spent 270 days working with victims of gang violence in Mexico, using their expertise to create a DNA database to help locate the missing.

Subsequently, in October last year, they made an application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK, which was rejected.

Home Office guidelines state that non-EU migrants cannot spend more than 180 days outside the UK during their visa period, unless they are “attending to a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis”.

However, Dr Schwartz-Marín claimed that his project was “very clearly” humanitarian, describing the way he and his family had been treated as “fundamentally unfair”.

The case sparked a public outcry, with more than 71,000 people signing a petition urging the Home Office to reconsider deporting the academics. More than £22,500 has been raised for the legal costs.

Speaking after the decision, Dr Schwartz-Marín told Times Higher Education: “We are so relieved. It brings hope not just to our family but for a policy change to benefit other families in the higher education sector.

“After all the support we received we feel compelled to fight for that change. And thanks to the visibility of the case I think we have a shot at doing something.”

Jolyon Maugham QC, who launched a legal challenge against the decision, tweeted that the U-turn was “a huge win for all who support this campaign”.

In a statement, a Home Office spokeswoman said: “Following a review of the initial decision, Dr Schwartz-Marín has been informed that his application and that of his wife Dr Arely Cruz-Santiago for indefinite leave to remain, has been approved.”

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