Man and wife redtape agony: 'it's hell'

SEVEN agonising months have passed since Bayram Karabulut last set eyes in his beloved wife.The couple have been forced to live in different countries since the British Embassy in Istanbul refused his wife, Meral, permission to return to England after a short stay in Turkey to care for her parents.

By Georgina James

SEVEN agonising months have passed since Bayram Karabulut last set eyes in his beloved wife.

The couple have been forced to live in different countries since the British Embassy in Istanbul refused his wife, Meral, permission to return to England after a short stay in Turkey to care for her parents.

Their relationship has been reduced to a single phonecall a day, and now they feel the authorities are trying to drive a wedge between them.

Ipswich MP Chris Mole has taken up their fight – and blasted as "insensitive" diplomats responsible for the case.

Thirty-two-year-old Mr Karabulut, a Kurdish man who is now a British citizen, has lived in Ipswich for the past 14 years and has carved himself out a successful business.

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The final piece of his jigsaw was completed two years ago when he married the woman he loved, Meral Yildirim at Ipswich registry office.

His 22-year-old wife was granted a one-year visa to live and work in England, after which she applied to the Home Office for an indefinite visa.

However, their world was thrown into turmoil when she returned to Turkey in June 2002 to care for her grief-stricken parents who had lost family in a ferry accident in Italy. The British Embassy in Istanbul refused to let her back into England.

Mr Karabulut, who lives in Foxhall Road, said: "Sometimes I feel like I have died and am not part of this life - I'm in hell and suffering."

The kebab shop owner, who runs a takeaway in Reynolds Road, has only been able to afford to go to Turkey once in the past seven months to see his wife.

"If out marriage wasn't genuine, then I wouldn't be angry and would not be fighting the decision. But they have made a mistake. I love my wife very much and I just want her back here with me.

Before Mrs Yildrim set-off for Turkey, the couple checked with the Home Office to see if this was all right, because her application for an infinite visa had not yet been processed.

"The Home Office told us that although my wife's application had not yet been processed, she would be allowed to return as long as she showed her documents to the Embassy in Istanbul."

"However, when she tried to come home, she was refused on the grounds that her documents were forged and that our marriage wasn't genuine," said Mr Karabulut.

Mr Karabulut, who suffers from blood disorder hepatitis B, has collected hundreds of signatures in a petition and also engaged the support of Ipswich MP Chris Mole.

Chris Mole said: "I am very sympathetic to Mr Karabulut's situation.

"People who know Meral and Bayram from their takeaway shop in Reynolds Road will know how they are a happy couple.

"I have written to the British High Commission in Istanbul asking why Meral's entry back into the country was denied. I understand she was refused entry on the grounds that they did not believe the couple's marriage was genuine and that they would not be able to support themselves without the help of public funds.

"In my letter I stated that the couple were living together and they operated a takeway outlet in Ipswich and that they had never made any call on public funding.

"Because of Bayram's deteriorating health, I hope they consider his appeal sympathetically. They seem to be dragging their feet and the situation has been ongoing for more than seven months.

"I am now waiting to hear how our appeal is going and given his health situation I feel they are being somewhat insensitive."

Since being separated from his wife, Mr Karabulut says he has been suffering from anxiety and depression and has also had to stop his medical treatment, because the side affects are so bad that he is unable able to cope alone.

"My hope of being reunited with my wife is diminishing.

"However, I can't give up - it's the first thing I think about in the morning and the last thing I think about at night.

"I would not be angry if she did not have the right to be here, but she is my wife and she does.

"They have destroyed my life and they have destroyed hers too. I can't cope anymore," said Mr Karabulut. "I need help to fight this battle."

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