Citizenship campaigners Emma and Jake DeSouza have launched a crowdfunding campaign to cover legal costs, which will amount to at least £45,000, following their recent campaign against the UK Home Office to secure citizenship rights granted under the Good Friday Agreement.
The Belfast-based couple, who took the Home Office on in a battle over immigration status and the right of citizens in Northern Ireland to be recognised as Irish, British or both, have been left with legal costs of at least £45,000.
The couple was not long married in 2015 when they mounted the case challenging the Home Office’s position that Mrs DeSouza, who was born in Co Derry, was automatically British under immigration law and not Irish as she claimed to be under the terms of the Good Friday Agreement.
Almost five years on, the case was resolved in May this year when the couple secured a concession that the principles of the Good Friday Agreement held firm and Mrs De Souza could be recognised as an Irish citizen and her American husband could stay in the UK.
Both parties were directed to cover their own costs in the case, which was resolved outside of the courts process.
The costs have prompted the couple to launch a gofundme.com appeal for £35,000 and they expect a further legal bill for £10,000. To date, the couple have crowdfunded close to £30,000.
Ms DeSouza said, “It has been very difficult as a family to personally fund and challenge a government. We’ve been doing that only with the assistance of everyday people like us, who are working and chipping in to try to help us. We haven’t had any assistance financially from any organisation or group.”
The lengthy battle with the UK Home Office has come at a cost both personally and financially, Mrs DeSouza said.
“We won’t really recover the true cost of that challenge. To sustain the case for five years against a government body it took not only immense personal sacrifices for us as a family but also immense financial sacrifices for us too," she said.
“I can’t wait to pay off the last bill and to start our married life together."
Despite the toll on the couple’s savings and professional lives they are continuing the ‘We are Irish too’ campaign to have the citizenship rights of the Good Friday Agreement to be ‘Irish, British or both’ enshrined into domestic UK law.
“In many ways, I see getting recognition to be Irish or British or both fully embedded across society and getting that completed as my responsibility,” she said.
More information about the campaign can be found at www.weareirishtoo.com.