A HEARTBROKEN Scot who was married in Thailand just a month ago is counting the cost of their failed attempts to have his wife join him in Scotland.

Ashby McGowan, a refugee activist from Glasgow, married Thanaporn Sonkew in a Thai Buddhist ceremony on December 6, but three attempts at securing her a visa have failed.

Now he said he feared his wife would never be able to live with him in Scotland.

He told The National: “You can perhaps imagine the tears we both shed. I have not slept properly since the decision.

“To apply for a visa has always been very difficult. Now it is impossible.

“I believe that the UK Government, having failed to stop the influx of needy refugees, have just put a blanket ban on those seeking to stay here from other countries.

“That is one area of immigration they have total control over, but this is I believe every wrong.”

The couple used two different agencies in Thailand for their visa applications, and the visa rules there appear to be as confusing as they can be in the UK.

“My wife has been told that she will never get a visa to live with me in Scotland until she proves she will never be able to stay here,” said McGowan, who also writes poetry for refugees.

“The agency representing our visa application said that my wife needed to have such close ties in Thailand that she will never be able to leave.

“She needs to have had children she is supporting, or an infirm parent she is aiding. It is a Catch 22 situation, she is not able to get a visa until she [confirms] she will never want to stay here.”

The agencies used by the couple did not apply for a spouse visa, but for a visitor’s visa which, according to the UK Government website can cost between £95 for six months and £822 for a standard 10-year visa which allows stays of six months per visit. A spouse visa here costs £1523.

McGowan, 66, said a friend of his had gone through the same process to enable his partner to stay with him in the UK.

He said: “He confirmed he had to apply for two visitors’ visas. After that – which took two years – he then applied for a marriage visa. He had to employ a lawyer. It has gotten more difficult since then.

“Also, the language test anyone wanting to come to the UK has to sit is hard. I have sat it on a website and many Scottish people could not pass it.

“The history test someone has to sit is English history, not Scottish history. I would have passed it, but I write about history and it was hard for me.”

The Home Office investigated the circumstances of the couple’s case, but said all its procedures appear to have been followed.

One immigration lawyer told us: “I don’t know why this couple were advised to apply for a visitor’s visa instead of a spouse visa, which would have been the more straightforward course.”