Home Office unfairly deporting talented academics

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Dr. Ernesto Schwartz-Marin and Dr. Arely Cruz-Santiago, both talented academics at Durham University and a married couple from Mexico on March 10th were asked to leave the UK within 14 days due to time spent abroad despite this being their home since 2007.  Though the Home Office has now put a temporary stop on deportation proceedings to 'try to find a way forward for them to stay in the UK', their original reasons for deportation of the couple were unfair because the time Ernesto and Arely spent abroad was because of humanitarian fieldwork as part of their research in Mexico. As a close friend of the couple, I am calling on the Home Office to continue to re-consider the decision to deport them.

Under the Home Office guidelines (art 266) the time abroad can be waived for ‘attending to a national or international humanitarian or environmental crisis.’  From July 2014 to July 2015, Ernesto and Arely spent 270 days working in Mexico where they pioneered a project called Citizen-Led Forensics. This involved training and helping communities build a DNA database for Mexican families whose loved ones had disappeared due to gang related and/or drug violence, thus fulfilling an important role in an increasingly desperate humanitarian crisis.  However, the Home Office does not see it as such, and they have issued Ernesto and Arely with a deportation letter.

Arely has just finished her PhD and is embarking on a promising academic career. Ernesto is a young and very successful researcher who has been awarded more than £1,000,000 in UK research grants, including the ESRC transformative (2014-2016) and Newton Fund (2016-2019). The work he does in collaboration with Arely and other UK and international scholars addresses social and political aspects of the disappeared in Mexican communities, issues that are left unaddressed by the authorities in the complex and corrupt political landscape in Mexico. Ernesto and Arely’s work has been featured on the BBC, the Deutsche Welle, and Al Jazeera news. They also worked with the BBC in developing a two-part episode of the BBC drama Silent Witness series finale ‘The Awakening’ in 2017 (inspired by their research). Their work is an asset to the UK.

They now face the prospect of abruptly leaving their current academic posts and tearing their 11-year-old daughter away from the life she knows. Their case is very distressing on a personal level, but it also sets a dangerous precedent for other non-UK academics working in universities and doing humanitarian fieldwork abroad.

We are therefore calling for the Home Office to continue to re-consider the decision to deport these two talented academics and their daughter. Please sign this petition to fight for justice for Ernesto and Arely as well as for other non-UK academics doing humanitarian or any other academic fieldwork abroad.

Below are some examples of the couple’s opinion editorials and public engagement materials: audio-visuals, animations and written pieces

2014 Schwartz-Marin, E., & Cruz-Santiago, A (2014) How citizens lead the search for Mexico's disappeared. Al Jazeera, World News, 20th of November, available at:  (Opinion Editorial)

2015 ‘Promise’: a song for the disappeared at:

Mexican Forensics, Al Jazeera (10 minutes):

2015 Didactic Materials on how to take a DNA sample and engage in Citizen-Led Forensics: (website in Spanish)




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