Australian family scrambles to beat deportation from Scottish Highlands

Kathryn, son Lachlan, and Greg Brain. The family faces deportation from Scotland unless they can find a job.
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Kathryn, son Lachlan, and Greg Brain. The family faces deportation from Scotland unless they can find a job.

An Australian family living in Scotland faces deportation unless they can find a job before midnight on Monday - local time.

That timeline runs out at 9.30am, NZ time.

Kathryn and Gregg Brain launched a last-minute media blitz on British TV and radio, pleading for an employer to come forward so they can continue their life in Dingwall in the Scottish Highlands.

Gregg, Kathryn and Lachlan Brain meet Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (centre).
RUSSELL CHEYNE/GETTY IMAGES

Gregg, Kathryn and Lachlan Brain meet Scotland's First Minister Nicola Sturgeon (centre).

"We just don't know what will happen after midnight tonight," Mrs Brain told BBC radio Scotland. "Today we're just trying to hope and pray and employer will come forward. The next 24 hours we just don't know what will happen.

"The wee boy has been an absolute trooper but it's been 15 to 18-hour days just trying to keep up with everything, plus trying to function as a normal family."

A spokeswoman from the Home Office confirmed that the Brains did not have a valid visa to stay in the UK and their 'period of grace', which had been granted by the previous Immigration Minister and then extended, expired at the end of August 1.

Any application for a visa would be considered during that period of grace.

If the grace period elapses they will be expected to make arrangements to depart (the UK) voluntarily.

If the Brains do not leave of their own accord then the Home Office would seek to enforce their departure.

The family sold their house and most of their belongings and moved from Brisbane to Dingwall in 2011 with their son Lachlan, then 2, on Mrs Brain's student visa.

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She is an expert on Scottish history and archaeology.

At the time they believed they would be able to stay on after Mrs Brain's study under a Scottish scheme designed to encourage migration to the Highlands.

However a two-year post-study visa scheme has been cancelled by the UK government, leaving them needing a job to stay in the country, and placing an extra administrative and cost burden on potential employers.

Their cause was taken up by local supporters and the Scottish National Party, who campaigned for the family to stay.

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said "the wee boy has lived most of his life here, he's a Gaelic speaker … I hope they can stay because they have a lot to contribute".

The family nearly won a reprieve with a job offer from the local crowdfunded GlenWyvis distillery. However it fell through, with the distillery reportedly told the role on offer did not match official work visa requirements.

The Brains have pinned their hopes on finding a new last-minute job offer. However Monday is a bank holiday in Scotland, meaning many businesses are closed.

They also still hope the government will change its mind on their deportation.

On Scottish radio on Monday morning Mr Brain said he had "thrown up twice so far this morning" due to the stress.

The family has been evicted from their home after their landlord said he "didn't want to be part of our criminal activity", Mr Brain said. They are now in their fourth home in as many months, thanks to the generosity of a member of their local church congregation.

He said new Scottish Immigration Minister Robert Goodwill had been "quite approachable and solution-oriented" and they were hoping for "some flexibility".

If they had to move back to Australia, "Brisbane is not Mogadishu, there is not anything we don't love about Australia, but we would be going back homeless, jobless and significantly in debt," he said.

A Home Office spokeswoman said the government would comment on the Brain family's situation later on Monday. 

 - Sydney Morning Herald

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