A STORY broken by The National about a Scottish plasterer and his American wife’s battle for a visa to allow her to stay here is featuring in a campaign highlighting the harsh UK visa spouse rules introduced by Theresa May and her “hostile environment” policy which have split up thousands of families.

Pressure group Reunite Families UK has planned a social media “subvert” starting on social media today to coincide with the seventh anniversary of May’s hostile environment.

It features Tony Duffy and his wife Juli Colaianni, who married in 2017, have been separated since last October when she returned to the US to make a new application for a spousal visa after her original was refused.

JULI COLAIANNI: Here is my story of the Home Office's hostile environment nightmare

This was also rejected because the Home Office claimed that Duffy, who is self-employed, did not meet the minimum income requirement of £18,600 and they have now submitted another application.

Reunite Families UK said the restrictive rules were created in 2012 to fulfil a Tory party manifesto pledge on immigration.

In doing so, the group said: “Theresa May put in place a system that not only made border control officers out of public servants, it set in motion a domino effect that has seen thousands of British children taking from a parent.

“Back in 2015, a damning report determined that around 15,000 children were being wilfully removed from a parent because of these rules that prevent many British citizens from having their non-EU spouse in the UK with them.”

The group added that a Migration Observatory calculation suggested that the number of families torn apart was almost 60,000.

Caroline Coombs, a co-founder of Reunite Families UK, said: “These complex and arbitrary rules are being sold as a way to satisfy a society who want more control on our borders.

“However, most people want that control in place for illegal immigration and to ensure Britain does not have an open door policy – they don’t know that innocent, loving families are being dragged into this awful net and when they do find out they are shocked.

“And it’s not just about complex rules. Through our member families, we have many stories where potential racial discrimination, mishandling and profiteering has been at play, with families losing large sums of money due to wrong decisions and downright terrible case handling by entry clearance officers and possible targets being placed. Ironically as we head into Brexit, our visas are being processed by a French company who have profit at the heart of their work.”

She said that when visas are refused, the company retains all the money paid – around £1500 per application.

“Families with non-EU spouses also pay £1200 NHS surcharge at the point of application to cover NHS charges – and during the five or 10-year route which spouse visas require, the non-EU spouse also works and pays NI and taxes,” said Coombs.

“They pay twice over what a British tax-payer contributes. Many refusals are appealed and over 50% of those appeals are overturned. Refusals create one parent families who then require benefits to help them where their non-EU spouse can’t. As we hit the seventh year anniversary and the architect of this awful, draconian policy out of office, the time is now to look at a more fair, humane policy that doesn’t split up families and cause untold mental health issues.”