Edinburgh family of 14 years in plea for lower visa fees to stay in the country

Peter Dipnarine and his family are under threat of being deported. They are L to R: back, Claire, Peter, Marie, front, Rene, and Chantal. 'Picture Ian Rutherford

A father has called on the government to put an end to his young family’s agonising fear of being torn apart by making immigration visa fees more “realistic”.

Peter Dipnarine has lived in the Capital for 14 years with his wife and three children who all face deportation after their visas expired in November 2016.

As a result they have been unable to get fixed-term employment and are unable to fork out the “ridiculous” £7,000 fee needed to secure their future in the city for the next two-and-a-half years.

Five applications to waive the fees to renew their visas have been rejected by the Home Office with a sixth now submitted in the hope of getting the green light.

The close-knit family faces being ripped apart if they are ordered to leave the country with Peter, wife Claire, both 57, and son Rene, 27, are of Trinidad and Tobago citizenship while daughters Chantal, 22, and Marie, 16, are citizens of the United States.

As a last resort to raise awareness, son Rene began an online petition which is now just 5,000 supporters away from reaching 100,000 signatures needed to trigger a debate in parliament.

Peter told the Evening News: “We are all worried and are scraping by each month to afford to pay the rent and for food to live off. We are being treated like illegal immigrants and we want this to go to parliament.

“We are wanting to raise awareness of the situation we’re in because there certainly are others in a similar predicament. Paying £7,000 every two-and-a-half years is not realistic for a family of five. We feel the fees need to be reduced so they are affordable for immigrants. It is clear discrimination.”

The family is now subject to immigration bail with conditions to reside at their Drylaw home and report to their local police station every 12 weeks.

The Dipnarines moved to Edinburgh in 2002 after 12 years in Miami, Florida.

Up until the expiration of their visa, Peter and Claire were working endlessly, mostly in administration. Now the pair have resorted to doing odd jobs in order to pay the rent and put food on the table but Peter is worried at how much longer they can continue with their lives filled with uncertainty.

Peter added: “We simply have no funds available to pay for the ridiculous visa fees. We’ve only just enough money at the moment to scrape by. “We want to work but we can’t without the visa.

“My wife and I have always worked and we’ve had jobs at places such as Edinburgh University and NHS Education for Scotland. I have been private tutoring, sourcing car parts or clearing containers. You don’t know how difficult it is looking for something to do each day when I’m a father just wanting to provide for my family.”

The family sent in a separate application for Edinburgh Napier network systems student Rene in June which is still being considered by the Home Office. Meanwhile there is still hope for digital media student Chantal whose application is still being considered despite the family not paying the required fees.

Peter added: “We should not be treated like this, especially when children are involved. Edinburgh is our home and we don’t want to go because we love it here.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “When setting fees, we also take into account the wider costs involved in running our border, immigration and citizenship system, so that those who directly benefit from it contribute to its funding. This reduces the burden on taxpayers. There are exceptions to application fees to protect the most vulnerable, such as for young people who are in the care of a local authority. Application fees are also waived where evidence provided shows that a person may be destitute, or where there are exceptional financial circumstances, and requiring a payment would result in a breach of rights under the European Convention on Human Rights.”

To sign the petition go to www.change.org/p/home-office-save-my-family-being-torn-apart-from-deportation

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