Arran community rallies behind visa row couple

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Let me stay in the place I love, pleads Lizanne

By Hugh Boag

An Arran businesswoman could be deported in days unless there is an 11th hour reprieve.

Lizanne Zietsman, who runs The Sandwich Station with husband John Malpas, has had her visa to stay in the UK refused by the Home Office. Now frantic efforts are being made to halt her deportation ahead on next Friday’s deadline.

Lizanne, who holds a South African passport, has been told she is no longer welcome but an online petition calling for this to be reconsidered has already attracted more than 5,200 signatures and the Arran community have rallied in support, while local MP Patricia Gibson has taken the fight to parliament.

And the widespread support has brought the couple hope. John told the Banner this week: ‘My wife and I would like to take this opportunity to thank the community of Arran for the overwhelming show of support following a particularly cruel and counterproductive decision by the Home Office to refuse the renewal of my wife’s UK visa.

‘For those of you who do not know the circumstances of this decision please allow me to give you a little background. I am a British citizen and my family have had both a house and strong community ties in Corrie since the 1950’s. I met my wife Lizanne in 2006 while we were both working for the much missed Creelers restaurant and quickly fell in love. Lizanne was born in Zimbabwe but due to the much publicised political troubles had to renounce her citizenship and obtain a South African passport in her early childhood.

‘After our first summer together I decided to join her on her return to Africa where we spent many happy years running safari lodges in Zambia, Mozambique and Tanzania. Eventually the stresses of Africa and the lack of security of any potential investment we might make there led us to the decision to leave. In 2015 we came back to Arran for a short break to clear our heads and figure out our next move but we quickly fell back in love with island and its people, within a very short time it felt like we had never left.

‘Roll on a year and we were fortunate enough to be able to put all of our savings into the acquisition of the Sandwich Station in Lochranza where many of you have met my wife and occasionally me when I am not hiding in the kitchen dreaming up obscure sandwich fillings.

‘Since taking the shop on the business has gone from strength to strength, we had to become VAT registered early last year and everything continues to grow. We have a symbiotic relationship with many other businesses on Arran, particularly George Grassie at the fantastic Blackwater Bakehouse who supplies us with vast quantities of world class breads.

‘On Wednesday June 19 this whole dream came crashing down when we received a communication from the Home Office stating that Lizanne’s visa renewal had been refused, she must cease working immediately, she must leave the country and that she did not have the right of appeal within the UK. Words really cannot express the shock, pain and anger that one feels when the person you love and spend every minute with is torn away from you, even now I find it very difficult to talk about without falling to pieces.
We do however have to put emotions aside and concentrate on the most important task at hand; re-establishing Lizanne’s immigration status in the country.

‘Assisting us with this campaign is our MP Patricia Gibson who has been hugely supportive but she needs all of your help. Everyone who wishes to can write to Patricia at her constituency office so that she has sufficient ammunition to use when she goes to Westminster, I know many of you have done this already and for this I a very grateful. Lizanne has to leave on July 12 making this issue extremely urgent.

Thanks are also in order for the thousands who have signed the 38degrees online petition, I feel proud to live in a country where people truly care about each other, there is a bright future if compassion is the basis of all decision making, please keep signing.

‘Lizanne and I would like to thank all of our friends in this special community who have worked tirelessly to help us with no regard to their own lives, without you we could not manage, we love you all and feel privileged to know you, thank you!

Mrs Gibson met a large delegation of concerned islanders who attended her surgery on Arran on Saturday, and told them to circulate the petition to show their support for Lizanne.

The MP told the Banner: ‘I wish to assure Lizanne and the very many islanders who are concerned about what the Home Office  might do in this case, that she has my full support.  I will be raising this matter on the floor of the House this week and will also present the petition signatures in the Commons as well in the coming weeks, to try to ensure that Lizanne can continue to live, work and contribute so much to Arran which is her home.  I have already written twice to the Home Office about this since this matter was first raised with me on June 21.

‘This case highlights how ill-thought Home Office policies are and how unfit for purpose this Government department is, under this Tory Government, when it comes to people settling in Scotland.  Lizanne is a well-kent figure on the island who is held in deep affection by all who know her.  To force her to leave her home, where she has built up a business, settled down and makes a valuable contribution to Arran, is cruel and defies all logic.  I will do all I can to have her case reconsidered and will push for a common-sense decision for Lizanne, her family and her community.

A Home Office spokesman said: ‘All applications are considered on their individual merits, on the basis of the evidence provided and in accordance with the immigration rules. We do not routinely comment on individual cases.’

  • To sign the petition visit 38degrees.org.uk and search for Lizanne Zietsman.