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Battle of UK man to continue living with his Thai wife has happy ending

 

Tuesday 22nd March 2016 9:02pm

UK men with Thai wives should network to improve visa regime for Thai women

A UK man is calling for UK Thai couples to band together and form some sort of association in order to stand up for the rights of Anglo Thai couples living and working in the United Kingdom.

Robert Langley from Bristol is 44 years of age and in the process of applying for a visa for his Thai wife 32 year Nutcha Durongthep to come to live with him in the UK. Mr Langley is very disturbed by the immigration process and claims that UK Immigration authorities are adopting a less than cooperative attitude towards the plight of UK citizens marrying Thai women. Mr Langley is in the process of a second application or appeal after his initial submission was rejected on the grounds that he had provided insufficient information to meet the income requirements which were introduced by the UK government in 2010. 'I rather think Englishmen with Thai women are an easy target for the government to knock back and make it look like they are doing something about immigration when it seems that everyone and his aunt can come to England illegally and claim human rights.'

Visa wait putting strain on relationship with Thai partner

Robert Langley met his Thai fiance three years ago and he admits that the current situation is putting a strain on his relationship. 'I think I've been messed about and the UK government should examine its priorities. 9 months ago I submitted documentation in Bangkok and two months later I was told that I'd have to submit the information all over again, this time in the UK. I think it's out of hand and then when you see them deporting Thai women who have been living here and paying taxes for years, it makes you think that there is something wrong with the system particularly if you're UK born and if you're wife or girlfriend just happens to be a Thai woman. Robert is referring to the deportation in February 2015 of Jirapon Doidge from Plymouth.

Thai woman living in the UK for seven years is deported

Jirapon Doidge, a Thai woman married to a UK man, who had been living in Plymouth for seven years up to February 2015 holding down a job, paying taxes and making every effort to comply with the more stringent visa requirements introduced by the UK Home Office in 2010. She was told by Immigration officials that she would be deported on February 13th 2015, the day before Valentine's Day as she had failed to obtain the specified English language qualifications necessary for the Immigration authorities to extend her visa allowing her to stay in the UK with her UK husband. Her husband, Phil Doidge 54 years old from Plymouth, had met and married Jirapon in Thailand in 2008.

Routine visa extension application results in shock rejection for Thai wife

The shock about Jirapon predicament came in 2013 after she had applied for a routine visa extension. In an interview with the Plymouth Herald, a local newspaper which took on Jirapon's cause, Phil recalled the moment he was told the news that his wife had to leave the UK and her visa application was refused. 'I will always remember it, I thought how am I going to tell her they are not going to give her a visa.' Mr. Doidge undertook an expensive legal campaign to have the ruling overturned but each appeal was refused. The problem for Jirapon had been that while she had enrolled in the International Language School in Plymouth and passed an examination in essential English skills offered by the school, unfortunately, this was not the specified English language test laid down by the UK Borders Agency. The Border Agency and Immigration Department required a City and Guilds language test as part of the criteria to extend the visa. Subsequent to the decision not to grant Jirapon her visa in 2013, her husband Phil had enrolled her in another course and she successfully completed the examination required in order to comply with the requirements. However the Home Office in the UK refused to revisit their decision and insisted that Mr Doidge's Thai wife by deported.

Wake up call to British men with Thai wives or partners in the UK

Robert Langley in Bristol, who has not spoken to or met the Doidges, says the incident should be a wake up call to all UK men with Thai wives and cannot understand why such a situation has been allowed to develop. 'I read this on the newspapers, it just blows my mind that a loving couple, a UK man with his wife, I mean this is the wife of a UK citizen, could be separated like this on a technicality when the man and woman had done everything possible to comply with the law.' The manager of the language center in Plymouth which offered Jirapon the first English language course and examination which was subsequently rejected by the authorities, told the Plymouth Herald newspaper in Plymouth that there were many other immigrants in a similar position.

Prejudice against Thai women in some quarters

Mr Langley feels that there is an ingrained prejudice among many people in the UK and particularly among officials working at the Home Office and immigration authorities against Thai women. 'I read that the whole process cost that man $7,000 and given my own case I can imagine the trauma that the couple went through. I think people do not appreciate the sense of rejection that you feel when a government department can tell you you can not live with your wife. It's particularly galling when you look around and see that illegal immigration into the UK is rampant.'

Not just the law, the spirit of the law but also the detail of UK visa law

Carla Boonkong is a commentator in Bangkok who has studied extensively the plight of Thai women in the UK and Europe and is currently working on a project researching Thai women in Australia. She says that the story of Phil and Jirapon Doidge, the UK man and his Thai wife, must serve as notice to all UK men and Thai women embarking on a relationship together. 'My advice to Thai women and anyone getting involved in these fantastic relationships has always been to make sure to comply not only with the law but the spirit of the law. But it would appear from this story that even complying with the spirit of the law may not be enough. The standard being set by the UK authorities is almost adversarial and calls upon Thai women and their UK partners to make sure that every detail of the immigration requirements are studied and every requirement met to the letter of the law.'

Irish farmer whose Thai wife was refused re entry to the UK

M/s Boonkong points out that the Immigration requirements introduced by the UK government after the conservatives came to power in 2010 has impacted many Thai UK relationships. In 2011 ThaiLoveLines reported the story of Eugene McElroy, a Northern Irish farmer whose wife Saowanit was refused readmission to the UK after visiting Thailand on the death of her mother. Mr McElroy's Thai wife was refused readmission on the basis that his income was $4.65 short of the income requirements specified by the UK authorities. This is the same requirement that has caused difficulties for Robert Langley in Bristol who is currently in the throes of his Thai wife's effort to come to live with him in the UK. 'I admit,at this stage, I am going through the motions, there are days when I have to calm myself down. I understand that many people in the Immigration Department are just doing their job but to me it doesn't feel like that sometimes. To me sometimes, it feels like a war or a campaign being directed at Thai women and English men who just want to live their lives together. What I cannot understand is why a UK citizen cannot bring his wife to live in the United Kingdom. I always thought that the wife of a UK citizen could become a UK citizen. When did this change? To be blunt, I feel like my rights as an Englishman are being infringed and I think that people should stand together and do something about it.'

Irish man tells newspaper of trauma of separation from his Thai wife

In 2011 Eugene McElroy described the hardship and trauma that the Immigration Department's decision had caused him. Mr McElroy told the leading Irish newspaper, The Irish Independent, that he owned 50 acres of land, had cattle and had no mortgage but that the UK's immigration authorities did not take that into account. 'Their silly bureaucratic rule is preventing me from being with the woman I love, the Irishman told the newspaper that he was fielding telephone calls from his Thai wife, Saowanit, crying down the line after the shock refusal of permission to return to the UK. The Irishman had met his Thai wife in 2006 and they had married two months later. He described their relationship as 'happy as the day was long' and even told the newspaper that Saowanit had nursed his mother before she died.

Despite the stereotype, UK Thai relationships are sound and healthy

Alison Dewar is a researcher who conducted postgraduate research into Thai women in the UK with UK partner living in the United Kingdom in 2012. She is currently working on research into links between loneliness and mental health. She believes that both subjects are related. 'These relationships between UK men and Thai women are very healthy ones, that was the surprising upshot of the research in 2012,' she says. Alison, who as the research was commissioned was sceptical of UK Thai relationships and the increasing number of Thai wives living in the UK, found her opinion completely transformed by the warmth and the depth of feeling she encountered in the course of her research. Her research involved one to one interviews with UK Thai couples throughout the country. She says that the story of Phil and Jirapon Doidge highlights the real status of these relationships. She agrees that there is a certain prejudice that exists in modern day Britain regarding Thai women. 'I think there is a caricature or stereotype of the Ting Tong Thai sexy woman and as I have pointed out before this relates to the ongoing problem of human trafficking which unfortunately runs alongside the more positive story of Thai wives in the United Kingdom and Anglo Thai relationships. As the story of the Thai woman in Plymouth and her UK husband shows, most of these relationships are not only healthy but often set an example to society.'

Thai wife could not initially speak English when she came to Plymouth

Phil Doidge met Jirapon in Thailand in 2008 and that year they were married. When they first met, Mr Doidge told the Plymouth Herald newspaper that Jirapon could not speak English but on arriving in the UK, Mr Doidge organised an English course for her and bought her a Thai English dictionary as a practical step to familiarising herself with the language. New regulations introduced by the Immigration Department require immigrants to familiarise themselves with the culture and history of the United Kingdom as well as attaining English language qualifications. In one interview with the Plymouth Herald newspaper, Mr. Doidge told the reporter that his wife had done everything 'the UK asked of her'.

Thai wife secures job in the UK within two months

Jirapon even succeeded in finding a job within 2 months of arrival in the United Kingdom working at Burts Crisps in Plymouth where she has been described as a valued member of the staff. Under UK immigration regulations, a Thai wife or spouse is granted a visa to live and work in the country for two years and this must be extended at a later date if permanent residency or citizenship has not been applied for. 'I think the goal of all UK Thai couples must be to achieve citizenship of the Thai woman or wife as quickly as possible. This is the current trend particularly in the United States where the route to citizenship is quite streamlined,' says Carla Boonkong, a commentator in Bangkok who advises Thai women.

Application for extension of visa in UK led to deportation of Thai wife

Jirapon Doidge and her husband had applied for extension of leave on her original visa in 2012, the couple had thought that they had complied with all the requirement stipulated by the Immigration Department. However in 2013 Mr Doidge opened the letter which declared that his wife's application for an extension of the visa had been denied on the basis that the English language qualification she had achieved was not one specified by the immigration authorities.

It was the beginning of a nightmare for Phil Doidge and Jirapon who next moved on to a series of appeals and legal manoeuvres in order to prolong her stay in the UK. It finally culminated in a deportation order for the Thai wife to leave the United Kingdom on the day before Valentine's Day in 2015.

Thai wife's publicity campaign and support from a Labour MP

Phil Doidge and his wife launched an extensive publicity campaign to highlight her plight which was taken up by the local newspaper in Plymouth, the Plymouth Herald. The popular local newspaper ran a number of stories on the couple's struggle to stay together. In one article, the newspaper interviewed Jirapon's employer Mr John Joseph, the Operations Director of Burts Crisps in Plymouth, who told the newspaper that he was losing a valuable member of the company's staff although he had no choice in the matter. 'We have to obey the law of the land but we are nonplussed that we have let her go,' Mr. Joseph told the newspaper. One of the key supporters that the Doidge's picked up was the former Labour Party MP for Plymouth, Alison Seabeck, who played an active role in Mr. Doidge's efforts not to be separated from his Thai wife. The Labour MP described the couple as 'very close knit' and described the relationship as a 'sustainable' one in letters to the Home Office and in particular to the UK Home Secretary Teresa May. The couple even attended a campaign meeting with the prospective Labour Party Prime Minister Ed Miliband during the run up to the 2015 election campaign. Mr Miliband subsequently went on to lose the 2015 General Election. Ironically, one of the key issues that influenced the election was the situation regarding immigration throughout the United Kingdom. At the meeting with Ed Miliband, an emotional Phil Doidge told the party leader that he had two weeks to get his wife out of England. During his plea to the Labour Party leader, his Thai wife was unable to control her emotions and the Labour Party leader saw first hand the pain that the couple were enduring.

Even with correct English language qualification, Thai wife left in tears

Jirapon Doidge did, in fact, resit the examination required by the Home Office for an extension of her visa and achieved the appropriate qualification. However the Immigration authorities refused to revisit their original decision and insisted that the Thai woman be deported back to her family in Bangkok. The case of the Doidges was even reviewed personally by the UK Home Secretary Teresa May who personally endorsed the decision of the authorities despite efforts to organise a petition to the UK government which drew over 250 signatures from people in the Plymouth area. Jirapon Doidge was forced to travel with her UK husband by bus to Heathrow Airport on February the 23rd 2015 where, in the early hours of the next morning, she boarded a plane from Thailand. Meeting with reporters prior to her departure from Plymouth, the young Thai wife was visibly upset and in tears. Mr. Doidge told reporters that because the was traveling by bus with his wife, he would have a very short interval to say Goodbye to her at the airport because he had to get the next bus home to Plymouth.

Happy ending for the UK man and his Thai wife after long struggle

However the story of Mr. Doidge and his Thai wife had a happy ending. The couple had, while they had the misfortune to have their visa application denied on a technicality, plunging them into two years of emotional distress and heavy legal costs, at all times complied with the laws in the UK culminating in Jirapon's self deportation on the 24th February 2015.

With the Thai woman on her flight to Thailand was a letter from the former MP, Alison Seabeck, to the UK embassy, endorsing the couple and presenting a very strong case for her to be granted a new visa to reenter the UK and be reunited with her husband. Jirapon, a Thai wife of a UK citizen had worked and paid taxes in the United Kingdom for nearly seven years and was a valued member of staff at the company where she worked. The UK Thai clouple had expected that Jirapon would be seperated from her husband for maybe six months and even made arrangements to communicate by Skype and other means. This is a regular feature of UK Thai long term distance relationships in the 21st century. The Plymouth Herald ran a story showing a relaxed and tanned Jirapon in Thailand smiling and telling the newspaper that she missed her husband Phil and looked forward to returning to the UK. Phil Doidge became so reconciled to the temporary separation that he pointed out that Jirapon was enjoying the time being able to spend time with her family back in Thailand with 42 degrees temperatures and fine weather.

Shock phone call from Thai wife saying she was coming home to the UK

Phil Doidge was shocked to get a phone call on 3am on Friday 3rd April from his excited Thai wife who told him that she had just received notification that a new visa had been granted to her to reenter the UK. 'She keeps forgetting the time difference, an excited Phil Doidge told the Plymouth Herald. Arrangements were made for the Thai women to return to the UK on April 21st 2015.

Many Thai wives and women are removed from the UK

Carla Boonkong observes that while the story of Jirapon Doidge and her UK husband had a happy ending, this is far from the case with many more cases often resulting in UK Thai couples being separated for more extended periods and often forever. 'I think this story of a UK citizen and his Thai wife is very important because the UK man did everything in his power to preserve his marriage and relationship from what was clearly a very hard hearted attitude by the authorities. There are many other UK Thai couples who are not so fortunate. We see cases where couples are separated on technicalities. In particular, income requirements for the UK husband which are often revisited. You can imagine the emotional trauma that these couples experience and at the same time they must deal with bureaucratic complexities. Of course, it is a mistake to get angry but it does seem very unfair that these people who are legally complying with UK Immigration laws are being victimised. I also feel that there is a prejudice not only against Thai women but also against the UK men involved in these relationships on behalf of the authorities. Years of stereotyping I think is the root of the problem and I have seen this also in Australia have made relationships involving Thai women offering easy target for officials,' says Carla Boonkong.

Concerns for Thai women seeking marriage or a new life in the UK

She particularly highlights the following issues which the story of Phil Doidge and Jirapon Doidge raise:

  • Failure of the authorities to revisit the decision to deport the Thai wife on a technicality: Carla Boonkong believes that this indicates a 'bull headed' attitude towards UK citizens and foreign wives. 'I have spoken to some researchers on this and I am told that this attitude is not just limited to Thai women but all foreign wives of UK Citizens but there is a more sceptical attitude to interracial relationships and I have to say towards UK Thai relationships.'
  • Personal review of the UK Home Secretary: The UK Home Secretary Teresa May personally reviewed the case of Jirapon Doidge and refused to rescind the decision not to take into consideration the fact that by the time her deportation was ordered, Jirapon Doidge had complied with all immigration regulations. In an interview with the Plymouth Herald, the former Labour MP Alison Seabeck said at the time, that she was 'actually quite angry' with the decision by the Home Secretary and the insistence on deporting the Thai wife.
  • The insistence on deporting the Thai woman came at the time of an election in the UK where immigration, driven by a surge in support for the United Kingdom Independence Party, had put it as one of the main issues in the election. The Conservative government in conjunction with the Liberal Party in 2010 had introduced measures to reduce immigration specifically targeting legal immigration or what many commentators have called easy targets. The case of Jirapon Doidge highlights the vulnderable nature of Thai wives in the UK to the ongoing immigration crisis which has now been extracted by the Europeans migrant crisis resulting from the Syrian war.

UK man and Thai wife show how strong these relationships are

On a positive note Carla Boonkong believes that the effort of the UK man and his Thai wife to preserve and maintain their relationship was a very public message about the nature of UK Thai relationships and the close knit bonds between these couples.

Alison Dewar, is a postgraduate researcher, who in 2012 interviewed a large number of UK Thai couples at length, a process which switched her view of the phenomenon from mildly negative to very positive. 'This couple is an example of UK Thai couples everywhere. They are particularly close knit and generally very hardworking individuals,' she says.

Carla Boonkong notes that the Labour MP who supported the Doidges lost her seat in the subsequent 2015 election and feels that the new environment, caused by the immigration crisis presents a challenge to UK men with Thai wives or prospective Thai wives in the future. 'I think it means that Thai women and UK men embarking on such relationships must be prepared to be whiter than white as they say. They simply must learn everything about these regulations. I also think that the UK Thai community, which is not very well organised, should look at some way of increased networking and campaigning to secure their position.

'Brilliant' Thai wife the subject of hostile online comments

During the publicity campaign run by the Plymouth Herald in Plymouth supporting the plight of the UK man and his Thai wife to remain together in the country, the couple were the subject of vocal online debate on various online forums. Phil Doidge himself acknowledged that there had been some 'horrible comments' but pointed out that no one knew his Thai wife the way he knew her. 'We're the closest two people, she's the most brilliant person,' he said.

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