Cassie Come Home: How government red tape is stopping a world champion from returning to England
By Alan Thatcher, Squash Mad Editor
Former world squash champion Cassie Thomas is still fighting to return home to England with her family despite her Australian husband Matt having his visa application blocked.
The reason for the rejection by the UK Visa and Immigration authority was because Matt’s return to Australia was through “personal choice”. Mum-of-two Cassie says she is choosing not to go through a lengthy and costly appeals process.
Cassie and Matt’s two daughters, Erin and Lola, were both born in Norfolk. After five years of living in Australia, the family decided they wanted to return home to Norfolk, where they still have a property.
Cassie, now 42, won the Women’s World Championship in 1999, she won the National Championship six times, and partnered with Sue Wright to win a gold medal for England in the 1998 Commonwealth Games women’s doubles in Malaysia.
She was runner-up in three further World Open finals in 1994, 1996 and 2003.
As well as winning gold in Kuala Lumpur, she also collected a bronze in the women’s singles.
She won two further medals at the Commonwealth Games in Manchester in 2002 and was awarded an MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours in 2004 for her services to the sport. Unfortunately a back injury forced her retirement a few months after her date at Buckingham Palace.
All of this makes her exactly the kind of athlete we should be welcoming home to these shores to become immersed in the game once again.
She has been an outstanding athlete, an incredible ambassador for the sport, and, with such phenomenal experience in the game, would surely be a welcome addition to England’s coaching team.
Background to an international scandal
I asked Cassie to answer a few questions to establish the background to her situation. Here are her answers:
1: When did you first begin the process of attempting to move back to the UK?
A: Matt first applied for the visa in January 2015. Within a week of the application it was denied.
2: What plans do you have for when you move back – coaching / work etc ? What are Matt’s employment plans?
A: Matt has a job waiting for him with Trell Contractors and I was hoping to do some coaching.
3: What UK government agency told you that your husband did not meet their criteria?
The UK Government Agency was UK Visas and Immigration. The visa was applied for in Melbourne and then sent to Manila!
4: What answers did they give you?
The answers they gave us was that it was Matt’s personal choice to leave as it is his personal choice to return. They do not think his links to the UK regarding family and property warrant the issue of the visa as he has been out of the country more than two years. (Even though they tell you to apply for the returning resident visa if you have been out of the country less than or more than two years)
5: I am assuming you are going through an appeals process. Are you getting any help with this? If so, from whom?
A: We are not going through an appeal process. Once the visa was denied we spoke to an immigration lawyer and he said the appeal very rarely gets overturned, takes months and months, and will cost thousands of pounds.
6: Are any of the squash federations helping you?
7: Is your family’s local MP in Norfolk helping at all?
A: I wrote to my family’s local MP and also the Immigration Minister but I just got the stock standard reply giving me links to UK Government websites stating the rules.
We are currently assessing our options after writing to the Immigration Minister and the local MPs in Norfolk.
I have heard that people have written to the Prime Minister on our behalf but there has been no change to our situation.