IMMIGRATION Minister Caroline Nokes has apologised to deportation-threatened Olya Merry – because her removal notice was a mistake.

The Home Office told the 28-year-old, from Belarus, she risked removal from the UK if she did not leave Scotland willingly.

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The order, which carried a seven-day limit, threatened to separate the Coatbridge woman from her husband Derek and put the future of their two-year-old daughter Milana – born in Scotland – into question.

The couple told The National of their sleepless nights, with Olya blaming the stress of the situation for leaving her feeling “low” and suffering health problems.

Now it has emerged that the whole ordeal was for nothing – because the order to leave was a mistake.

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However, the admission does not guarantee the end of Olya’s fight to remain,with her family in North Lanarkshire, because she has not been given permission to stay. That will depend on the outcome of a new review.

In a letter seen by The National, Nokes said: “Mrs Merry was served with an enforcement notice, advising her of her liability to removal from the UK on April 4. The Home Office apologises for issuing this notice in error; it will now be withdrawn and the reporting conditions set upon Mrs Merry will be cancelled.

“The Home Office will assess whether Mrs Merry holds any automatic residency rights under the EEA regulations or any valid claims for Leave to Remain under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to family and private life.

“Mrs Merry will be contacted by the Home Office and full consideration will be made on her case.”

Olya – who settled in Scotland with Derek to prepare for Milana’s birth – had been refused a residence card on the grounds that she failed to prove that her husband had met immigration rules which allow those from outwith the EU to come to the UK after first settling elsewhere in the European Economic Area (EEA).

The couple took jobs and accommodation in Ireland for almost twice the minimum time limit.

Olya’s residence permit was refused in May 2016 – six months after she applied – and the case went to an immigration judge in September 2017. When the refusal was upheld, the couple twice requested permission to appeal to an upper tribunal.

However, these were also rejected in January and March this year before the removal letter arrived last month.

Commenting on the apology notice, Olya said: “I feel very relieved – it’s been hell.

“They accepted their mistake but visa-wise, it’s not decided.

“It was completely wrong that I should have been refused my residence card. I don’t know what will happen now but it would be ridiculous to refuse it.”

Authorities have held her passport since the application, leaving the family unable to travel and Olya unable to visit her parents in Belarus.

Derek said: “It would be good to get her passport back and have life return to normal.”

The family’s MSP Fulton MacGregor, who raised the case with the First Minister, called the error “extremely worrying”. He added: “Had Olya not contacted me when she did, and instead followed the instructions of the letter from the Home Office, she and her daughter would now be back in Belarus, separated from their husband and father.

“I am calling on the new Home Secretary to issue new guidance for all cases like Olya’s to ensure no-one is removed from the UK in error. I am also calling on him to immediately grant Olya the right to remain in the UK indefinitely so that the Merry family can build their life here.”

A Home Office spokesperson said: “We do not routinely comment on individual cases.”