Couple win reprieve in deportation row

PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS.'Kelly and Ilirjan Mehmetaj with baby Sofia at home in Chorley
PHOTO. KEVIN McGUINNESS.'Kelly and Ilirjan Mehmetaj with baby Sofia at home in Chorley
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A Chorley family who faced being torn apart because of immigration laws have been handed a last-minute reprieve.

Kelly and Albanian-born Ilirjan Mehmetaj met while on holiday in Greece in 2010, and instantly fell in love.

Ilirjan applied for a spousal visa, which would allow him to stay with Kelly in the UK, and the pair married last year, followed by the arrival of their daughter Sofia, who has just turned one.

But the couple, of Water Street, were left devastated last month after they were told Ilirjan had 28 days to leave the country or face being deported, because he failed to take an English test in the required time.

The pair are now submitting a fresh application to the Home Office to allow them to stay together, arguing that deporting Ilirjan while he has a daughter born and living in England is against his human rights.

Kelly, 23, who works on the deli counter at Chorley’s Booths supermarket, said: “At the moment, we are just getting everything together for our solicitor, and keeping our fingers crossed that he will be passed this time.

“We have to demonstrate as much evidence as we can of our relationship to the Home Office.

“I don’t want to get my hopes up, because I could still end up with a ‘no’, but we think he will be able to stay while the application goes through, which at least gives us some more time.”

Ilirjan moved to Chorley in 2010, and the couple were told he could stay for two years if they married within six months.

They married in January 2011, unaware a new English test had been brought in one month before, which he would have to pass if he wanted a full visa.

By the time he could take the test on February 2, his visa had run out six days earlier.

Kelly was seven months’ pregnant at the time, and because Sofia had not yet been born, she could not be taken in consideration.

Kelly said: “We have got everything together, and there is nothing else we can do now apart from wait.

“The sooner we get it all sent off, we will feel more relaxed.”

The couple were given a boost on Monday when they were able to celebrate daughter Sofia’s first birthday together, by having a barbecue at their family home.

Kelly said: “We had a big barbecue to celebrate her birthday, and it was lovely to have us all together.”

Ilirjan, 33, who was born in Albania, but spent 20 years living in Greece, said: “I love my family and I don’t want to leave.”

A spokesman for the UK Border Agency said they were unable to comment on individual cases.