EXCLUSIVE: Married Durham academics given 14 days to leave UK

By Eugene Smith

Two Durham University academics face being deported within the next fortnight, Palatinate can reveal.

Dr Ernesto Schwartz-Marín and Dr Arely Cruz-Santiago, a married couple, failed in their appeals for a visa renewal because they had spent too long out of the country conducting humanitarian fieldwork.

The anthropologist and human geographer, whose 11-year-old daughter is also being forced to leave, are both Mexicans who have lived in the UK for years.

The pair spent 270 days between June 2014 and July 2015 in Mexico, working with victims of gang related violence and building a DNA database to help locate the missing.

“The whole system is designed to discriminate against academics”

Under Tier 2 visa guidelines, non-EU migrants in the UK cannot spend more than 180 days outside the country, unless they are “attending to a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis”.

Dr Schwartz-Marín claims that because the Mexican war on drugs has cost an estimated 160,000 lives and caused 30,000 disappearances over the last decade, their work was assisting in a humanitarian crisis.

The Home Office do not accept it as such, but in their letter to Dr Schwartz-Marín – received on Saturday – have not explained why.

Dr Schwartz-Marín told Palatinate in a phone interview he believes the Home Office are not following their own rules and that “the whole system is designed to discriminate against academics”.

He added: “I think with Brexit this is going to be happening a lot more.”

When asked for comment by this newspaper, a Home Office spokesperson said Dr Schwartz-Marín’s application for Indefinite Leave to Remain, made in October 2017, was refused “on the basis that he was absent from the UK for more than 180 days within the five consecutive 12 month period preceding the date of the application”.

“Dr Schwartz-Marin’s application for an administrative review of the decision has been dealt with and the decision upheld on 8 March 2018,” they added.

“Anyone without valid leave to remain is expected to leave the country voluntarily, or face removal action if they don’t.”

Francis Pritchard, Hon. Secretary of the Durham University and College Union (UCU), told Palatinate: “Durham UCU deplores the attempt to deport Dr Schwartz-Marín and Dr Arely Cruz-Santiago.

“We feel it is symptomatic of [a] lack of understand[ing] by government of how universities and academics operate, particularly with regard to field work.

“We will naturally support Dr Schwartz-Marín and Dr Arely Cruz-Santiago to the best of our ability, and we have been in touch with our regional and national officers.”

Attention was first drawn to the pair’s plight by a Twitter post shared by barrister Jolyon Maugham QC, which outlined the situation and said: “All legal avenues seem to have gone. At a personal level this is horrendous.”

Maugham, who has written about migrant rights for The Guardian and whose post has been retweeted over 3,000 times, commented: “The rules exist to stop those who don’t meaningfully live here from getting permanent residency.

“This xenophobic Government seems to be being [sic] applying them to kick out academics whose work involves significant foreign travel.”

Durham University’s Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Social Sciences and Health), Professor Tim Clark, said: “We have very recently been made aware of the developments of this case.

“We are not able to comment on personal circumstances. However, we are committed to supporting our staff wherever possible and we are providing such support in this instance.”

Dr Schwartz-Marín has lived in the UK since 2007, the year he started a Master’s of Science in Genomics in Society at the University of Exeter.

The anthropologist was awarded a PhD in the subject from the same institution in 2012.

He has since authored or co-authored thirteen peer-reviewed journal articles, encyclopaedia entries and book chapters.

He and Dr Cruz-Santiago wrote an opinion editorial for the Al Jazeera news network based on their fieldwork on the use of forensic technologies to search for the people who have “disappeared” in Mexican gang related violence.

The full, original post shared by Jolyon Maugham QC can be viewed below:

 

Featured photograph and portrait: Jessica Sequera via change.org

17 Responses

Leave a Reply
  1. Ron Moule
    Mar 13, 2018 - 05:08 AM

    Can you help me with the maths here? Eugene Smith says in The Palatinate report that “The pair spent 270 days between June 2014 and July 2015 in Mexico” ie within one year, and furthermore that “non-EU migrants in the UK cannot spend more than 180 days outside the country”, but quote the Home Office ruling “on the basis that he was absent from the UK for more than 180 days within the five consecutive 12 month period preceding the date of the application”.

    So is it one year or five?

    Reply
    • Bernie Allan
      Mar 13, 2018 - 08:47 AM

      One is a fact and the other is a rule.

      Reply
    • steven
      Mar 13, 2018 - 09:41 AM

      For the application of indefinite to remain, the applicant is required not to leave the country for more than 180 days a year and 270 days in the consecutive 5 years. In this case, they can extend their Tier2 visa for one more year if the university still sponsor them.

      Reply
      • avoyager
        Mar 13, 2018 - 11:02 AM

        Steven, may I ask you? A frequent traveller and EU citizen, who is employed by an EU-based company in that country but has had his main residence in the UK for over 5 years, constantly leaves the country for a few days to be back for a few days. He has definitely been in the country for less than 180 days a year for five years, so would not be able to obtain Settled Status after Brexit. Is that correct? Or are there more points to consider? I guess, you’d need an immigration lawyer for that. Thank you.

        Reply
  2. Ron Moule
    Mar 13, 2018 - 05:08 AM

    Can you help me with the maths here? Eugene Smith says in The Palatinate report that “The pair spent 270 days between June 2014 and July 2015 in Mexico” ie within one year, and furthermore that “non-EU migrants in the UK cannot spend more than 180 days outside the country”, but quote the Home Office ruling “on the basis that he was absent from the UK for more than 180 days within the five consecutive 12 month period preceding the date of the application”.

    So is it one year or five?

    Reply
    • Avoyager
      Mar 13, 2018 - 09:01 AM

      The 180 days rule is – to my knowledge – applied to every 12 months (not necessarily a calendar year) within a five-year period.

      What confuses me, isn’t this rule also a prerequisite for EU citizens to obtain Permanent Residency or Settled Status after Brexit?

      Reply
      • tsuchan
        Mar 13, 2018 - 11:24 AM

        The same question has several times gone through my mind.

        Reply
    • Avoyager
      Mar 13, 2018 - 09:07 AM

      The 180-day rule applies to every 12 months within a 5-year period – to my knowledge.

      What confuses me, isn’t this rule also a prerequisite for EU citizens to obtain Permanent Residency or the Settled Status after Brexit?

      Reply
  3. Avoyager
    Mar 13, 2018 - 09:06 AM

    The 180-day rule applies to every 12 months within a 5-year period – to my knowledge.

    What confuses me, isn’t this rule also a prerequisite for EU citizens to obtain Permanent Residency or the Settled Status after Brexit?

    Reply
  4. Peter Trebilco
    Mar 13, 2018 - 01:32 PM

    Yet again, after the case of Dr Miwa Hirono, england has demonstrated it remains an irrelevant island off the coast of Europe. Academics are warned against seeking employment in english and associated universities because the Nazis who control england are utterly bereft of moral courage, and singularly undeserving of trust. England no longer values the contribution of academics, perhaps because we represent a challenge to the underlying assumptions of a disintegrating and increasingly desperate clique of racist, sexist and remnant feudal anti-intellectuals. Good riddance to the failing state, I say!

    Reply
  5. Doris Fone
    Mar 13, 2018 - 04:20 PM

    This is shocking and at the most a seriously ridiculous situation. What value are serious scientists? 14 days to leave the country they lived in for years? Surely, it’s obvious that a scientist academic needs the flexibility to travel if not for conferences than clearly for collaborative or essential research work. Does this mean, that if we employ foreign and at present non EU scientists and academics they are shackled to this country and their potential research work is thus limited?

    It seems the UK doesn’t deserve such scientists if this is how they are treated and will it get worse once Brexit is upon us? Of course in a country where future politicians are more likely to follow the educational PPE path, how can they possibly understand the exceptional value our science academics represent. Shame on you that make those thoughtless and standardised decision, which potentially could deter future academics from wanting to work here.

    Far from being more global, the UK is turning into a backwater non-entity. Just hope that other unis in the
    EU will snap up these academics. Our loss.

    Reply
  6. Helen Pattison
    Mar 13, 2018 - 05:17 PM

    Is there a petition we could sign?

    Reply
  7. Ingólfur Ásgeir Jóhannesson
    Mar 13, 2018 - 06:26 PM
  8. Philip Hodkinson
    Mar 13, 2018 - 08:06 PM

    What can you expect from a department that has not been fit for purpose since the pm ran it.
    Now with bumbling boris in charge, there is no chance.

    Reply
  9. Örn Þorvaldsson
    Mar 13, 2018 - 09:59 PM

    Please do not do, this is not fair, this is wrong!

    Reply

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