"I have never welcomed the weakening of family ties by politics or pressure" - Nelson Mandela.
"He who travels for love finds a thousand miles no longer than one" - Japanese proverb.
"Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence." - Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
"When people's love is divided by law, it is the law that needs to change". -
David Cameron.

Sunday 12 May 2013

JoJo and Loic - an update

We have an update to JoJo's and Loic's story, which was originally featured here :

As we said then, it's a compelling and fascinating story, which deserves to be told by JoJo herself in full.

The original story is here :

The latest installment is here :

Excerpts :

'JoJo is a British Citizen and 31 years old. She grew up in Hampshire and Northumberland, with her older brother and sister and loving parents. During her childhood she developed a fascination with nature and the outdoors, and an obsession with chimpanzees and gorillas. She pored over books written by her heroines Jane Goodall and Dian Fossey, and dreamed one day of getting to Africa to study these endangered primates for herself. After finishing school JoJo attended Durham University where she studied Physical Anthropology, graduating in 2003 with a 2:1 Hons. During her time at University JoJo’s mother passed away from a long illness, but her father and siblings were incredibly supportive of her passion for Africa and the great apes.

'After University JoJo worked as a retail assistant to save enough money to go and volunteer in the Republic of Congo at a chimpanzee sanctuary, where she worked for six months to release orphaned chimpanzees back into the wild. This experience opened JoJo’s eyes to the terrible plight of chimpanzees and gorillas in Africa, who currently face enormous pressure on all sides from poaching, habitat destruction and huge global demand for raw materials. Upon returning to the UK JoJo was determined to return to Africa as soon as possible to continue working in great ape conservation. She again worked as a retail assistant in the UK for 6 months while she applied for jobs in Central Africa, until finally in January 2005 she was successful, getting a job in Gabon to set up a new chimpanzee and gorilla conservation project for the Max Planck Institute (MPI) in Leipzig, Germany.

'Upon arrival in Loango National Park, Gabon, JoJo met Loïc: a Gabonese research assistant also hired by the MPI to work on the new ape research project. Loïc is a committed conservationist, previously working with endangered forest elephants, hippos and crocodiles in Gabon. He grew up in a village on the edge of Loango National Park and knows the area like the back of his hand. So in 2005, Loïc and JoJo began working in Loango with just two other staff, exploring the rainforests in search of chimpanzees and gorillas, estimating how many apes lived in the forest, and mapping an area of over 100km2 to document the swamps, savannahs and different habitat types. JoJo and Loïc lived in a remote and isolated tented camp with no running water or electricity, but they loved the work they were doing, and felt that a lack of creature comforts was well worth it. After 5 months working and living together day in day out in Loango, JoJo and Loïc’s relationship turned from that of colleagues into something more. They moved into the same tent, and despite spending all day in the forest together and having little privacy in the basic camp in the evenings, their relationship flourished in the remote rainforest.


The latest news :

'On the 27th March, completely out of the blue, Loic received an email telling him that his appeal had been “successful”, and asking him to urgently bring his Passport to the British Embassy in Cameroon. No more details were provided. Loic duly travelled to Cameroon and dropped off his passport, and was greeted with surprise by the staff there, who didn’t seem to know what to do with him or his passport. He showed them the email he had received, and after some conferring they explained that his passport would need to be sent to Ghana to have the Visa put inside, a process which would take 2 weeks. Loic returned to Gabon to wait the 2 weeks, booking a flight to the UK for 3 and a half weeks after the date of submitting his Visa, just to be on the safe side. Two weeks came and went, with no word, and after several emails went unanswered Loic decided to return to Cameroon to find out where his passport was.

'Upon arrival at the embassy, he was told to come back the next day, and then the next day, and the day after that; and each time he was told his passport would likely be among the post being delivered from Ghana. After a week of this, and staying in hotels at great expense, and having to change his flight also at great expense, Loic made a bit of a scene at the embassy and demanded to speak with one of the managers. When he finally got to speak to someone, they told him that the Visa printing machine in Ghana was “broken”, and that he would either have to wait another month, or alternatively they could try and send his passport to another country with a UK embassy that had a machine which was working.

'On the same day, JoJo’s father happened to be staying in London close to the UKBA offices in Croydon, and he also decided to pay them a visit and kick up a bit of a storm. After an hour of not even being allowed through the door, he finally got to speak to someone, who knew a colleague who worked in the Ghana office, and she promised to call her colleague to find out what was going on. Less than 2 hours later, Josephine’s father received a telephone call from the colleague in Ghana (a miracle given the UKBA’s skill at avoiding any kind of direct interaction!), promising him 100% that the Visa was now in the passport and that it was being sent back to Cameroon the very same day. So clearly the story about the machine being broken was not true.

'Six more excruciating days went by, at this point Loic had now spent 3 and a half weeks sitting in Cameroon and going to the embassy every day without success. Finally, on the 2nd May, the passport arrived and Loic was able to return to Gabon to take his flight to the UK on the 7th May. JoJo was there to meet him at the airport. At passport control Loic was taken aside and questioned for over an hour. He had with him a letter that JoJo had written, explaining that she was in the arrivals hall and happy to answer any questions (since Loic’s English is very basic), but they did not call her. Finally, Loic was allowed through and the two were reunited. The entire application process had taken over 11 months from start to finish, and cost thousands of pounds and a lot of heartache.

'As already mentioned, Josephine and Loic know they are much more fortunate than many couples, but their experience serves to illustrate what a “best case scenario” can look like when dealing with the UKBA. Even with adequate savings and a long term relationship which could be backed up by many colleagues and friends, the process still took almost a year and cost more than £5000 in application fees, appeal fees, hiring a solicitor and flights to Gabon. Given that the immigration rules are becoming even more stringent, particularly now that the government is feeling the pressure from UKIP breathing down their necks; any couples seeking to come and live in the UK would be well advised to plan any move a very long time in advance.'

This is great news. We have another winner. Congratulations!

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