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WATCH: Family finally reunited in Huddersfield after agonising immigration battle

Young son 6,000 miles from his mum

A family has finally been reunited in Huddersfield after an agonising THREE-YEAR immigration battle.

It has meant that a young boy living 6,000 miles away from his mum is finally now back with her.

John Fletcher’s stepson Gemah was left stranded with grandparents in Indonesia, 6,000 miles from his family for three years with no chance of a reunification.

Now the family are back together, but it took another misfortune to eventually bring a happy ending to the Huddersfield household.

And as John said: “I’ve missed so much of Gemah growing up”.

John is manager of the popular Sportsman pub in St John’s Road and fell foul of the Government’s immigration laws, which meant Gemah was unable to get a visa to get him to the UK. Officials ruled John did not earn enough to support a family of four, but failed to take into account benefits he earned.

But when John’s grandmother died, he was left enough money to meet the visa criteria and Gemah is now settling in to life in Huddersfield.

John’s story began when he met his wife to be Ana, an Indonesian National, on the island of Suluwesi eight years ago. Their relationship grew and six months later, Ana and her young son Gemah moved in with John at his home.

John and Ana married in 2009 and three years later, their daughter Aisha was born. The family decided to relocate to the UK and John arrived in the UK in May 2012 to prepare everything in anticipation of his family to joining him a few months later.

Unfortunately things didn’t go to plan: “I came to the UK to get a job and find a house in May 2012 but in July that year the visa requirements changed which meant that my family could no longer join me.”

Visa rules meant John could no longer meet the Financial Requirement Test. He earned £18,600, leaving him £3,800 short of the requirement for a family with a dependent child. However, additional benefits including free accommodation and bills provided by John’s employment as a pub manager made him more than able to support his family but these were ignored in his application.

John and Ana Fletcher with lawyer Emma Brooksbank (left)

“I run a pub and part of my remuneration package is my accommodation – which in my case means there is no rent to pay. The problem is that the government doesn’t have any flexibility on its income test. They just ask if you earn that amount, so benefits like the ones I receive aren’t included which is totally unfair.

“It wasn’t until another misfortune struck us that I was able to bring my stepson to the UK.

“My grandmother died and left me some money and I finally met the requirements. However, I wish it hadn’t taken this to happen for my stepson to be with us,” says John.

“When we made the decision to come to the UK, Gemah was six and we knew that at that age he would have adapted to a new school and language easily. He had already lived with me for four years and he spoke quite good English. Unfortunately over the last three years his English has gone. He is now 10 and it will be tough for him to start school here.

“It feels like UK immigration policy is designed to break families up. The government is compelled by public opinion and all of this anti-immigrant stuff in the media to reduce immigration. To do that they target families and make it so difficult and expensive for ordinary people to bring their children into the country that we give up trying in the end. It’s only thanks to the help we received from our solicitors that we were eventually able to bring Gemah here and be together permanently.”

John’s solicitor was Emma Brooksbank, of Simpson Millar, who said: ““The UK’s immigration policies have changed over a number of years and now we have a set of rules that are very difficult to satisfy, very strictly applied with little discretion, common sense or compassion.

“Whilst people may have a right to appeal, it could take nine months for the appeal to go through. And when you are talking about families that are separated, it’s not reasonable for them to be apart for such a long period of time.”


Doug Thomson
Huddersfield Town correspondent
Chris Roberts
Huddersfield Giants correspondent
Louise Cooper
Crime correspondent
Nick Lavigueur
Health Correspondent
Joanne Douglas
Local Government Correspondent
Linda Whitwam
Education Correspondent
Henryk Zientek
Business Correspondent
Martin Shaw
Mirfield Correspondent