Immigration: How Old Is Too Old?

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The story of Myrtle Cothill has made headlines in recent days – after the 92 year old was served with a plan to remove her from the UK by the Home Office. According to the Home Office, Mrs Cothill no longer has the right to remain, and must return to her native South Africa in spite of her age and ill health.

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Myrtle's Story

Born in 1924, Myrtle has lived the majority of her life in South Africa – where she had hoped to remain - until her ill health forced her to come to the UK so that her daughter could care for her.

Mrs Cothill's daughter currently looks after her in Dorset, as she has heart, eye and walking issues.

  • Born under the British flag, with her father serving in the British Army in World War One; her only existing family are based in the UK – and was told by authorities to seek help from the Red Cross.
  • Her original application to stay in the UK was on human rights grounds; she was an adult dependent relative.
  • Initially, her application was refused by the court; and the subsequent appeal against the decision for deportation was rejected with the judge ruling that she was not a "person of credit".
  • There has been a public outcry for the Home Office to reconsider the decision after the news story hit the press. This has included input from high profile public figures such as the Green Party leader, Natalie Bennett, who has shared an appeal on change.org which calls for Myrtle to be given the right to remain.
  • As well as this, recent medical evidence has suggested that Myrtle could potentially die within 3 months if she returns home to South Africa due to lack of care.


Myrtle's flight back to South Africa was cancelled by the Home Office to give the family more time to prove that her poor health is a reason for her to remain in the UK.

Emma Brooksbank, Partner and Head of Immigration at Simpson Millar, comments:

"The rules for adult dependent relatives changed in 2012 and became so difficult to satisfy that we see many cases like Myrtle’s. I am currently dealing with several similar cases where clients have an elderly parent in the UK or overseas. The person in the UK has a good level of income and sufficient resources to support their parent without them becoming a burden on public funds or the NHS.

It is difficult for them to understand that the immigration rules make it almost impossible for them to do what any family would do and support their elderly family members.

The only alternative at times is to leave a good job and family in the UK to move back to the parent’s home country to care for them. This is one of the many harsh consequences of the immigration rules as they are currently drafted.

I hope to see a change in the rules which will make life easier for people like Myrtle."

Worried, Or Have Questions About Immigration?

If you're worried about an elderly family member's immigration status, but don't know what to do, Simpson Millar's expert Immigration team are on hand with straightforward legal advice, so you can put your mind at rest.

When your family members are old and in the at-risk category, they shouldn't have to be put through the trauma of being deported – especially if you are able to sustain them. We can help you with a plan of action to make sure their lives are as comfortable as possible.


To find out how we could help you please make a no-obligation enquiry or call freephone: 0808 129 3320.




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