UK & World News

  • 9 December 2013, 20:39

University Boat Race Protester 'Can Stay in UK'

An immigration judge has indicated that Boat Race protester Trenton Oldfield will be allowed to stay in the UK because of his "value" to the country.

The Australian told an immigration tribunal that if he is deported from the UK his British wife and five-month-old baby daughter will not move to Australia with him because it is a "racist country".

Mr Oldfield was appearing at an appeal hearing in London after his request for a spousal visa was refused by the government on the grounds his presence in Britain is not "conducive to the public good".

The 37-year-old activist has lived in the UK for more than 10 years.

In April 2012 Mr Oldfield swam into the path of the Oxford and Cambridge rowing crews as they raced down the Thames during the Boat Race in a protest against elitism and inequality.

He subsequently served seven weeks of a six-month jail term.

"Australia is a particularly racist country," Mr Oldfield when explaining that if he was deported he would be separated from his wife Deepa Naik, 36, and their child.

Mr Oldfield said Ms Naik had never visited Australia and could not live there because some Indians in the community had suffered violent racist attacks.

The Australian said that when he swam in the Thames in 2012 he had recently returned to the UK after caring for Ms Naik's father as he was dying of cancer.

"I think I was vulnerable in terms of realising how short life can be," Mr Oldfield told the hearing before breaking down in tears.

His lawyer, Stephanie Harrison QC, said the boat protest was not of sufficient gravity or seriousness to justify his deportation.

"His presence is neither undesirable or contrary to the public good," she said, adding that separating him from his wife would be a "disproportionate" punishment.

Outside court around 50 of Mr Oldfield's supporters held banners saying 'stop criminalising protest'.

He also had support from staff and students at Oxford and Cambridge universities.

Judge Kevin Moore said he thought Mr Oldfield was of good character.

"It would be my intention to allow the appeal," he said to sighs of relief from Mr Oldfield and his supporters.

It is expected he will make his official ruling in 10 days time.

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