A BOOKSELLER from Woodham who ‘loves his country’ and has lived in Woking all his life, has grudgingly abandoned hope of settling down with his wife in Britain after losing an appeal.
In February, the News & Mail reported how Sean O’Conor, who was born and bred in Woking, met his now wife Liliana, a trainee doctor from Columbia, in 2009 in her home country. They fell in love and got married in September 2013.
But by a ‘cruel’ and ‘absurd’ twist to their fairytale, a Government law brought about in 2012 bans non-EU-born spouses of British citizens if they’re earning any less than £18,600 a year from living with them in the UK.
Sean, who admitted that the occupation of bookseller is not a highly paid profession, points out that his wife, a qualified doctor in A&E, was hardly likely to be a drain on the state.
Determined to do something about it, he said the Migrants’ Rights Network who were leading a fight to change the law, said it results in anguish affecting an estimated 18,000 Brits a year, with married couples divided and children separated from a parent.
After meeting Liliana in Columbia’s Bogota, she told Sean she would shortly be moving to Spain to pursue her career.
Sean told the News & Mail in February: “We started to visit each other regularly and Liliana got to know and like Woking very well. We even went to the 2012 London Olympics together. Still, I am hopeful that this law will be overturned – it is a very un-British thing to do to British citizens.”
Since their wedding, the couple had been forced to live apart, although they call and Skype every day, but it will never be enough for the married couple who want to build a life together.
Sean said: “Of course we’d rather be living together as husband and wife in Woking, but I am a victim of the current hysteria about immigration in Britain.”
When Sean contacted Woking MP Jonathan Lord, he had said: “I am extremely sympathetic to the situation Mr O’Conor and his wife are in. I do believe it is very important that all individual cases are treated fairly and that the law needs to strike the right balance overall.”
Despite his determination and best efforts, the appeal was thrown out in July. Downhearted, Sean felt he had no choice but to succumb to moving to Spain to be with his wife.
He said: “Judge Richard Aikens upheld the law at the Court of Appeal, dealing a body blow to thousands of couples like us who only want to be together.
“In view of this, we are giving up on Britain and starting a life in Spain.”
Upset, disillusioned and disappointed with his own Government, Sean added: “We just have to accept this injustice while other Europeans are free to live in Britain with whoever.
“Marriage and family are surely the building blocks of any civilised society, but the Government are denying that fundamental freedom to 47 per cent of the British workforce who do not make £18,600.
“The so-called ‘party of the family’ have literally put a price on marriage. It feels bizarre to be an exile from my home. Why on earth can’t we just live in Woking?”
Having given up hope on British law, Sean and Liliana now live in Ponferrada in Spain.