Derry woman claims US-born husband is 'hostage' in north because she won't call herself British

Jake DeSouza and wife Emma, who are claiming the UK Home Office is refusing to recognise her Irish citizenship. Picture by Hugh Russell.
Jake DeSouza and wife Emma, who are claiming the UK Home Office is refusing to recognise her Irish citizenship. Picture by Hugh Russell.

A CO DERRY woman is claiming her US-born husband is being held “hostage” in the north over her refusal to describe herself as a British citizen.

Irish passport holder Emma DeSouza says her right to identify her nationality under the Good Friday Agreement is being ignored by the UK Home Office following her attempts to gain a visa for her American spouse.

Magherafelt-born Mrs DeSouza (29) married her husband Jake in July 2015 and immediately began the process of securing his right to live in Northern Ireland as the husband of an Irish citizen residing in the UK.

Mr DeSouza (28), who hails from California, surrendered his US passport as part of the application process, but the couple claim they have since been told that due to Mrs DeSouza being born in the north, she is a British citizen and must reapply for Mr DeSouza’s visa while claiming this nationality.

Appealing the decision, Mrs DeSouza is refusing to claim British citizenship, despite being told this is the only way her husband will have his passport returned – other than dropping the visa application altogether.

Mr DeSouza, a musician, is unable to travel with his band, affecting the couple’s income, while he has also been unable to return to the US to attend family funerals.

“This is a ridiculous situation that is threatening our financial security but I refuse to claim British citizenship as I was born in Ireland and I am Irish,” Mrs DeSouza, who works as a cafe manager, told The Irish News.

“I have been told by the UK Home Office that if I am to be considered Irish only then I would have to renounce British citizenship. However, to do this you have to first declare that you are in fact British but no longer wish to be. I never was British and under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement I am Irish, as it allows people from the north to be British, Irish or both.

“I have nothing against other people’s Britishness and I respect their right to it but I resent being told that I am British when I’m not.

“Jake is unable to travel for work as a drummer, despite the fact his band has just signed a record deal and they wish to tour. He is also homesick and can’t go home to visit family while this is going on, but he supports me 100 per cent. He has even had to miss the funerals of two uncles back home because he has no passport to travel on. He is essentially being held hostage here until I ‘admit’ to being British – it’s incredibly frustrating.”

Mrs DeSouza said her case was to go before a tribunal hearing but has been told to expect a long wait.

“This is a process that might take many more years but I am not being forced to be British when it is not who I am.”

South Belfast SDLP MLA Claire Hanna said the case was “distressing” for Mr and Mrs DeSouza and said the Home Office was failing to grasp the workings of the Good Friday Agreement.

“It is wrong that this couple has to put their lives on hold to deal with this massive uncertainty,” she said.

“The Home Office appears to not understand – or is ignoring – the set of laws pertaining to the Good Friday Agreement that assures this individual’s right to an Irish identity.”

Ms Hanna added: “It’s worth noting that a large percentage of such appeals against the Home Office are successful. If any other organ of the state got it wrong to this degree, surely something would be done to remedy the situation.”

A Home Office spokesman told The Irish News: “All applications are considered on their individual merits and in line with the immigration rules.”