Seven-year-old Lachlan Brain faces deportation from Scotland later this month despite being fluent in Gaelic, the Celtic language native to Scotland that is very closely linked to the Irish language.
Lachlan moved from Australia to Dingwall in the Highlands almost five years ago with his parents Greg and Kathryn as part of the Highland homecoming program, a scheme heavily advertised in Australia which encouraged those of Scottish descent to return to the country and help to repopulate the Highlands.
Gregg and Kathryn both have Scottish roots. They first visited Scotland on their honeymoon in 2005 and returned again in 2011 to do further research on whether a move would be right for them.
Between 2005 and 2011, they applied for visas. Kathryn eventually secured a student visa after enrolling in a degree in Scottish history and archaeology. Her husband and son were listed as her dependents.
Kathrun finished her degree last year and the family’s visa expired in December 2015. The British Home Office has rejected their case to stay. It is believed their further visa application was rejected as they had not succeeded in finding jobs that completely fulfilled visa requirements. Despite Gregg previously working a full-time job and Kathryn also receiving a job offer, both positions were not deemed as acceptable by the Home Office.
Scotland is where the Brain family made their home. It would be a huge injustice to deny them their right to remain.https://t.co/bygYMvprgW— Alex Salmond (@AlexSalmond) May 19, 2016
“All visa applications are considered on their individual merits, and applicants must provide evidence to show they meet the requirements of the immigration rules,” said an official spokesperson.
The Brain family is disappointed at the visa rejection. They had made clear that they planned to settle permanently in the Highlands at the time Kathryn applied for the student visa.
“Even on the university application form she described our desire to immigrate here, to do the course and stay on afterwards, to work for someone like the National Trust for Scotland or Historic Scotland,” Gregg Brain told The National newspaper.
“We were responding to the 2007 Highland homecoming program the Scottish Government were promoting in Australia, which was also backed by the Home Office. They laid out the progression you could make to come back and help repopulate the Highlands.”
Lachlan is a pupil in a Gaelic-medium school and wishes to remain in Scotland.
“I would be really sad if I had to leave to go to Australia and I really hope that we get to stay in Scotland,” the seven-year-old said.
“My friends are here and we would all miss each other very much. I like my school, teachers and my friends who I have known from Croileagan since I was two and I don’t remember anyone from Australia, except Gramps and Pop. I don’t want to leave all my aunties, uncles and cousins in Dingwall and Strathpeffer.”
Believing themselves to be a “poster family for successful immigrant candidates,” the Brains have received the support of local politicians and the local community in their fight to avoid deportation to Australia this month.
Lachlan’s teacher Rachel-Ann Urquhart has claimed that the young boy would suffer “both socially and academically” if he was forced to leave the Gaelic school.
“I believe that in Lachlan’s best interests he should remain at Dingwall Primary, where he is successfully learning and achieving through the medium of Gaelic,” she wrote in a letter to the UK Home Office.
“Lachlan also has a great number of close, social friendships at the school, which he has developed during his time in education there.”
The family’s case has been taken up by local MP Ian Blackford, who believes the family's story highlights the problems with Scotland’s immigration system.
I have just intervened in the House of Commons asking for justice for the Brain family.— Ian Blackford (@IBlackfordSNPMP) May 18, 2016
“The Highlands need people who want to stay and make a contribution,” Blackford said.
“It’s a nonsense that the big stick of the UK Government is forcing these people out on a technicality. They have never taken a penny off of the state. They are here to make a living and Lachlan’s enjoying the benefit of Gaelic education We want young families to settle here, participate in the culture and become part of life here, but the UK Government is saying ‘no’ – it’s barking mad.
"We need to keep the pressure up and, in this regard, the widespread community support and from further afield that has been shown, I know, is much appreciated by the family."
The Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has also taken an interest in the family’s case and wrote to UK Home Secretary Theresa May earlier this month, asking her to reconsider allowing the Australian family to stay.
“I fear this is another example of the inflexibilities of the UK immigration system resulting in Scotland losing talented individuals who have studied at our universities and contributed to our economy,” wrote Sturgeon.
“We need an immigration system in Scotland that meets our own needs and our continuous calls for the reinstatement of the post-study work route in Scotland would help to address these needs.”
Can you help Kathryn, Gregg and Lachlan Brain? https://t.co/ZYJX8dznKN— SNP Dingwall BlackIs (@SNPDingwallBI) March 20, 2016
The Brain family’s story is very similar to that of the Ware family, who faced deportation from Ireland last year despite various visa attempts and pleas from local representatives.
Due to a bureaucratic mix-up between the INIS and the Garda National Immigration Bureau (GNIB), the family was given just weeks to leave before receiving a one year leave to remain just as they were set to leave their Co. Kerry home. The Ware family’s daughters were also Irish-language speakers and active members of the community.
H/T: The National