100,000 back Edinburgh plasterer’s fight to bring American wife home

Tony Duffy and Julianna Colaianni
Tony Duffy and Julianna Colaianni
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A PLASTERER’s campaign to scrap the UK government’s “price on love” and bring his American wife home has gained support from more than 100,000 people.

Tony Duffy, from Restalrig, launched a petition after being told by the Home Office that he doesn’t earn enough to bring his wife Julianna Colaianni to Scotland. Mr Duffy, a self-employed plasterer, makes more than £18,600 – the minimum a British person must earn to be able to marry someone from outside the EU.

However, because the 30-year-old works for his own company, AD Plastering Services, the Home Office has denied a visa on the grounds that not all of his earnings count.

Ms Colaianni came to the UK as a student and met Tony at a party in Edinburgh in 2016 and married the following year. It was “love at first sight”, she told the Evening News. ”We haven’t gone a day without speaking at least once since then,” she said.

When Ms Colaianni’s visa expired a few weeks after their wedding, she applied for another to remain with her husband. But it was refused, as were several applications since.

In August 2017 the couple contacted Tommy Sheppard, MP for Edinburgh East, who wrote to UK immigration minister Caroline Noakes requesting intervention in this “disgraceful” case, due to concerns over Mr Duffy’s health.

Mr Duffy suffers from depression and anxiety and says Ms Colaianni is his main source of support. However, despite support from Mr Sheppard, a solicitor, and an accountant, Ms Colaianni was forced to leave the country in early October.

According to Home Office minimum income requirement (MIR) rules, only the taxable portion of Mr Duffy’s income counts, so his earnings aren’t enough once expenses have been deducted.

The row comes as Edinburgh Rugby star Damien Hoyland fights Home Office plans to deport his grandparents who have lived in the Capital on and off for 40 years.

Ms Colaianni, who is living out of a suitcase at her mother’s house in the US, said: “It’s really not an ideal situation. Plastering is a dead trade in the US, so it isn’t possible for Tony to move here.”

Ms Colaianni’s arts degree from Northumbria University 
is much more suited to working in the UK, she said, and the couple also want to be in Edinburgh to support Mr Duffy’s mother. A petition launched by the couple calling on Home Secretary Sajid Javid to scrap the MIR - which affects thousands of other couples - hit almost 113,000 signatures in six days.

Mary Atkinson, campaigns officer at the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants – a charity that has been supporting the couple – said: “The response to this petition shows that the British public is opposed to these rules and wants to see them 
changed.”

The couple have been “overwhelmed” by the support for their petition.

“I’m hoping to get my wife home as soon as possible and to get other families reunited and scrap this price tag on love,” Mr Duffy said.

newsen@edinburghnews.com