Durban – After a year-and-a-half-long battle with the British authorities – which saw her garner international support – a 92-year-old South Coast woman has finally been allowed to stay in the UK, with her daughter.
It came just as the UK celebrated Mother’s Day on Sunday.
“It’s the best present we could have hoped for,” the woman’s daughter, 66-year-old Mary Wills, said at the weekend.
“Words cannot explain how I’m feeling, I’m overwhelmed,” she went on.
Myrtle Cothill’s barrister, Jan Doerfel, said “subject to final security checks and enrolment of biometrics”, the UK Home Office had advised them Cothill would be granted leave to remain without recourse to public funds.
“When we told Myrtle, she said through tears: I feel like a weight has been lifted off me!,” Doerfel said.
A sickly widow with no surviving family in South Africa, Cothill travelled from Port Shepstone to the UK in February 2014, to visit Wills. But after a few months there, she decided she did not want to come back.
But the British Home Office said her six-month visitor visa could not be switched to a residency permit, and that such an application would have to have been made while she was still in South Africa.
An online petition was started, seeking support for the reformation of the Immigration Rule on adult dependent relatives, and at last count, more than 151 000 people from around the world had signed it. Cothill also turned to crowd funding, in the hopes of taking her case to the European Court of Human Rights.
She was scheduled to be deported last month but – in the wake of the outpouring of public support and of the widespread media coverage the case attracted – at the last minute, the British authorities granted her a stay of execution while they reconsidered her case. Fresh evidence – including a medical report compiled by psychiatrist, Dr Benjamin Robinson – was submitted.
The medical report said were she to be sent back to South Africa, Cothill would face a heightened risk of dying within the first three months of her return and diagnosed her with “severe clinical depression and anxiety developed since she realised she would be removed”.
“What this amazing campaign has shown is that family values have won after a long battle,” Doerfel said at the weekend. He and Cothill and her family thanked the media and the public for their support.
He said they hoped the UK government now recognised how strongly people felt about changes made to the Adult Dependent Relative Rule, made in July 2012, which no longer allowed family members to care for their vulnerable relatives.