Ralph reunited with family

Together, two years ago in Indonesia - Ralph and wife Evi, with their son and daughter.

Together, two years ago in Indonesia - Ralph and wife Evi, with their son and daughter. - Credit: Archant

A dad separated from his family for a year by immigration laws has just days to wait until they are reunited.

Ralph Leadbetter, from Sidford, is just over a week away from holding his wife and children in his arms again - after borrowing more than £30,000 from relatives to secure their place in the UK.

But the family’s victory may be short-lived as Ralph’s wife, Evi, could be forced to leave her husband and children once her visa runs out.

The father-of-two has said he has been left emotionally and physically drained.

Ralph told the Herald this week: “When they arrive, only then will I believe it. Only then can I process them sitting on the sofa watching television.

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“All the fighting, all the laughing, there will be the good and the bad, but I will have them here.”

Of his battle with immigration laws, he added: “I am quite embittered, I feel very wronged. We should never have had to go through this ordeal in the first place. I will never get my kids’ childhoods back and that is still a bitter thing to me.”

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Ralph’s family’s lives have been full of ups and downs as he tried to secure a 33-month spouse and marriage visa for his wife and children, Harry, six, and Malika, three.

The Herald first told of the Leadbetters’ plight in August last year as the hotel supervisor began the fight to bring his family home. He was told he could not because he did not earn more than £18,600. To beat the red tape – and prove his wife would not be a burden on the taxpayer - Ralph had to borrow thousands of pounds from family members to ensure his bank account was £32,000 in the black.

The 46-year-old had bought the family’s dream house in Church Street, Sidford, but was forced to settle for weekly Skype calls to Medan, Indonesia, 8,000 miles away.

However, the challenges will not stop for the family when they arrive as, once her visa runs out, Evi would have to return to Indonesia alone. The couple have been married for seven years.

Ralph said: “In two-and-half years, the children will be at school, they will have friends, they will be living here. My wife would also be settled and then she’s just expected to leave her children and go. She cannot be expected to leave. It has been my wife who has raised my children because we have been divided geographically and by immigration laws.

“I am quite pro-immigration. I think immigration has to be controlled, but it has to be looked into if you are a genuine case. My wife and I are the real deal.”

For now, Ralph is looking ahead to Harry starting Sidbury Primary School in September, when he also celebrates his seventh birthday.

Father and son have not celebrated a birthday together since Harry was two years old.

Ralph added: “It’s hard to think what Harry has been thinking. When he was younger he asked why I was leaving, he used to think it was because he had been naughty, which I found quite upsetting. I have missed him grow up. I will never ever get that back.”

The family’s reunion was due to take place two months ago, but circumstances changed when Indonesian officials would not allow the children to board the plane as they did not have an entry stamp for the UK in their passports. The children hold dual nationality as they were both registered with the British Embassy in Jakarta.

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