‘It’s been the worst week of my life’ - Husband’s heartache after wife is locked up and refused entry to UK

Mike and Jiheyon Harbrow. Picture: MIKE HARBROW

Mike and Jiheyon Harbrow. Picture: MIKE HARBROW - Credit: Archant

A heartbroken Essex husband says he has been forced to choose between his country and his wife after she was locked in a cell and refused entry just weeks before a renewal of vows ceremony.

Mike and Jiheyon Harbrow pictured on their wedding day in South Korea. Picture: FAMILY

Mike and Jiheyon Harbrow pictured on their wedding day in South Korea. Picture: FAMILY - Credit: Archant

Mike Harbrow was looking forward to a new life back in Colchester with his wife Jihyeon but instead finds himself in a costly row with the Home Office.

The 34-year-old former Colchester VI Form student met his wife four years ago while teaching in Ulsan, South Korea.

They were married in a traditional ceremony last June and Mr Harbrow says he had been welcomed into her family.

After four years away from his own home, however, Mr Harbrow was keen to return to Colchester with his wife to start a family.

Mike and Jihyeon Harbrow on holiday in Cambodia. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Mike and Jihyeon Harbrow on holiday in Cambodia. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant


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The couple had looked into what was needed to return to the UK and claim they had followed all the requirements asked of them.

Mr Harbrow flew home first and began making preparations for their renewal of vows. The ceremony was being held for Mr Harbrow’s terminally ill mother.

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But when his wife arrived at Heathrow their dreams of a new life together quickly turned into a nightmare.

Mrs Harbrow, 27, was locked in a cell and made to feel like a criminal while her husband desperately tried to find out from the Home Office what he needed to do.

Mike and Jihyeon Harbrow on holiday in Japan. Picture: CONTRIBUTED

Mike and Jihyeon Harbrow on holiday in Japan. Picture: CONTRIBUTED - Credit: Archant

Just a few hours after touching down in the UK, however, she was on a plane back to South Korea.

Mr Harbrow has spent the days since searching for help so he can be with his wife, including writing to Colchester MP Will Quince who said he would look into his case.

“It’s been the worst week of my life,” Mr Harbrow said.

“We’d been apart for the longest time since getting married and both of us were looking forward to being together again.

“But instead we’ve both been made to feel like criminals.

“I’m so angry she has been treated like this and it’s so frustrating that I can’t do anything about it.

“We did everything that was asked of us, we’ve been honest and up front with the Home Office and yet this is how we are treated

“We still hope to resolve this problem - but even if we do it will have cost us thousands of pounds and my wife’s impression of this country will be forever tainted.”

His father-in-law, who owns a successful international trading business and had been looking to invest in the UK, is also furious at his daughter’s treatment.

Can you help? Email Mr Harbrow with advice.

Home Office response

Home Office officials said Jihyeon Harbrow did not meet the immigration rules for visitors to the UK.

A spokesman said: “All people seeking entry at the border need to satisfy the Immigration Rules.

“Mrs Harbrow did not meet the Immigration Rules for visitors. It is open to any non-EEA national wishing to settle in the UK, including those wishing to join their spouse, to apply for the relevant visa to do so.

“Border Force officers spoke to Mr Harbrow and his mother to verify details and to ensure they were kept up to date.”

Applicants and their partners must both be 18 or over; the partner must be a British citizen of have “indefinite leave to remain” and they must intend to live together permanently in the UK. Applicants must be able to prove they are in a civil partnership or marriage that is recognised in the UK or that they have been together in a relationship for at least two years.

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