Belfast Telegraph

'We can't do things a normal couple do' - Emma de Souza plans to raise issue of appeal funding with Tanaiste Coveney

Emma De Souza and her husband Jake
Emma De Souza and her husband Jake

By Eimear McGovern

A Northern Ireland woman has said she will be raising the issue of funding with Tanaiste Simon Coveney to appeal a ruling which stated she was born British.

Emma de Souza, who is from Magherafelt, will meet Simon Coveney in Iveagh House on December 17.

She won a case against the Home Office in 2017 after it deemed she was British when her US-born husband Jake, a drummer, applied for a residence card. However, an immigration trial in October upheld an appeal brought by the Home Office.

The Good Friday Agreement allows people to identify as British, Irish or both, but the Home Office says the agreement did not supersede the 1981 British Nationality Act.

Ms de Souza gave evidence to the Committee on Justice and Equality at Leinster House last Wednesday. Chairman Caoimhghin O Caolain said the committee would write to Simon Coveney to recommend considering paying her costs.

Emma and Jake de Souza have written to Mr Coveney on a number of occasions.

"He has stated to us that they're trying to find a resolution and they're conscious of the fact that our case is costing us quite a substantial amount of time and emotional distress and also our finances," she said.

Mrs de Souza said she believes the Tanaiste has raised the case with the Home Office.

"I think the government is very conscious of the fact that we are going up against the endless resources of the British government with this case.

"We're just a normal couple, I'm at work today in a coffee shop. Gerry Adams brought up at the committee hearing that if the Irish government was to fund the case, it would put pressure on the British government and I think that's true.

"We would not say no because we could certainly do with the help. Financing the case is quite difficult for us and we don't know how we're going to deal with it."

The de Souzas case has been funded through public appeals for donations with over £20,000 raised.

"But that's over the past year and now we're at a point where we have to raise £100,000 over two or three months - a huge jump in finances," she added.

"We don't qualify for legal aid and we don't get any financial assistance because we both work full-time.

"We're in a position where we don't have access to justice because of where we fall in terms of income."

With the threat of deportation and the mounting legal costs, the couple have had to put their lives on hold.

"I don't know if Jake is going to be deported, which he could be. Depending on which Home Secretary we end up with and what line they take, we might have to abandon the case because we can't afford it," she said.

"When you're in a position where you don't know if you're going to be able to stay together, you can't start your married life together because you're in a weird limbo.

"All the normal things a married couple do - settling down, buying a house and doing all those things - we can't even think about doing because we had to funnel all our finances and our money into our case."

No date has as yet been set for the appeal.

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