Pensioner’s plea to help Thai wife join him in Britain as he faces cancer fight

Norman Robbins and his wife Wilawan

A pensioner fears he might succumb to cancer while his Thai wife remains stuck in her homeland.

Norman Robbins, 66, of Redcar , has incurable bone marrow cancer, multiple myeloma.

He married wife Wilawan in Bangkok five years ago and is desperate for her to come and live on Teesside.

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But she’ll need a “spouse visa” first – and obtaining that will cost around £2,500 by the time things like medical examinations, written English tests for Wilawan and commission for an immigration advice service Norman is using is included.

And if it has to go to appeal, the bill may even reach the £4,000 mark.

Now friends have set up a JustGiving page to help pay for Norman to be reunited with the wife he yearns to spend the rest of his days with.

Dad-of-two Norman was originally a South Bank lad who began working life as an overhead crane driver at Cargo Fleet steelworks.

He then lived in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, for 37 years, latterly working as a window cleaner and care worker.

But when his 25-year first marriage ended, he hooked up, through a dating website, with divorced mum-of-two Wilawan, then working in Russia as a Thai masseuse.

After a year of online dating – “we literally just clicked,” says Norman – he flew out to Thailand to meet her for the first time, face to face, during a two week holiday.

But they got on so well, Norman popped the question and on June 20, 2012, they married in Bangkok.

Norman, of Redcar Lane, recalled: “We looked at each other and said ‘let’s get married’. We just knew. We have the same sense of humour, tastes, everything.”

He added: “I came home and the intention was to pack my job in and go and live in Thailand. Then I got cancer and that changed everything.

“I came back to Redcar two years ago because with having the cancer, my family wanted me here. Then I took ill again.

“I’m in remission at the moment but I know this cancer will kill me and they can’t tell me how long I’ve got.”

Wilawan, 53, has enjoyed two six-month stays in the UK with Norman on a visitors’ visa – once in Lincolnshire and earlier this year in Redcar – but, says Norman, “they won’t let her come any more without a spouse visa.”

Norman Robbins and his wife Wilawan
Norman Robbins and his wife Wilawan

He said: “When she was here, it was brilliant – all my neighbours said what a difference she made in me. And she loves England, Redcar especially.

“She’s lovely, she gets on with everyone, but the Government won’t let her come and live with me as my wife. Where are the human rights in that?

“And if she’s here when I die, she’d go back home afterwards – she doesn’t want anything off the Government. She doesn’t want a penny.

“Effectively, they’re telling me I have to buy my wife. But we just want to be together.

“I just want to be with my wife for however long I’ve got left.”

Norman Robbins
Norman Robbins (Image: Katie Lunn)

A Home Office spokesperson said UK visa fees are set by Parliament – and in this case the basic settlement fee would be £1,464. However, a £200 health surcharge for those applying for stays of six months or more in the UK would also have to be paid.

The spokesperson added: “It is only right we recover the costs of running our immigration system, reducing the cost to the UK taxpayer by ensuring that those who benefit directly from it contribute appropriately.”


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