Fight is on to get grandmother ‘back home’ to West Yorkshire

Kim Matthews with her son Niko Alexis-Bailey, at home in Mirfield.
Picture: James Hardisty.

Kim Matthews with her son Niko Alexis-Bailey, at home in Mirfield. Picture: James Hardisty.

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TWO-year-old Niko has only met his grandmother once - but his mother Kim Matthews is fighting to close the almost 6,000-mile gulf between them and reunite their family.

Miss Matthews’ mother Pulsak Kulpol, who is known as Sue, lived and worked in Mirfield, West Yorkshire, for 27 years after marrying her British father Kent in 1980.

Kim Matthews' mother Pulsak Kulpol with her grandson Niko on the one occassion they have met, in 2014.

Kim Matthews' mother Pulsak Kulpol with her grandson Niko on the one occassion they have met, in 2014.

The couple retired to her native Thailand in 2009, but shortly afterwards, their marriage broke down and the couple divorced.

Since then the family has fought a six-year battle to try to get Ms Kulpol back “home where she belongs” - but say they have “exhausted all possibilities” and have reached a dead end in their quest to get her a visa.

Miss Matthews, 30, of Mirfield, said: “It would mean everything to have her back. It’s been such a long time.

“Before I had Niko, I managed to almost block it out, but having my son has made me realise how much I need my mum - and how he needs his grandmother.”

Ms Kulpol was granted indefinite leave to stay under the terms of her spousal visa when she moved to the UK to be with her husband and elder daughter Kala in 1982. They lived in Mirfield, near Huddersfield, where at first she worked as a cleaner and then in a fish and chip shop. After the birth of her second daughter Kim, she later worked as a carer in a nursing home where she gained NVQ qualifications.

It was after Mr Matthews lost his accountancy job in 2008 that the couple decided to retire to Thailand where sadly the relationship broke up. Since then, Miss Matthews and her mother have been trying all eventualities to get her home, including contacting local MP, Labour’s Paula Sherriff.

“When my mum and dad were going through troubles they did try to get her back but a settlement visa was refused,” Miss Matthews said.

“Since then we have tried to apply repeatedly for a visa for my mother, so that we can have her back at the heart of our family, but have been misadvised and have applied for the wrong types of visa and also we have been delayed by communication problems dealing with the Thai offices due to time differences.”

Even a short term option - a visitor visa - is out of reach as Miss Matthews would have to prove she had substantial funds, £18,000, in the bank in order to support her.

Niko has met her once, in October 2014, when they went over to Thailand. She also has a second grandchild to her eldest daughter, Chloe.

Miss Matthews said: “Mum is now 56, which is considered old in Thailand to get a job. She has a little cleaning job, but it’s at a university and they don’t get paid when it’s closed for holidays so she’s really struggling to make ends meet. Her focus is on getting home to us.

“We feel that it’s a great injustice that a lady who has raised a family in the UK and financially contributed to our society has been denied the opportunity to grow old with her family, on the basis that her husband left her during retirement.

“All she wants to do is come home and be with her family.”

Meanwhile the ongoing battle is “taking its toll” on both Miss Matthews and her mother.

She added: “My mother finds the situation extremely difficult. She does not feel she ‘fits in’ with the Thai community in the way she feels she fits with the English community. She has lived in the UK for most of her adult life and feels that England is her home.”

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