Ilaitia Cokanasiga, the father of Bath winger Joe and London Irish prospect Philip, is apparently devastated at being marooned on the other side of the world from his family while his wife awaits a brain tumour operation.
Despite serving for almost 14 years in the British armed forces and serving two tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan, Cokanasiga’s immigration plight is said to be typical of numerous Commonwealth-born army veterans.
In an interview with the Guardian, he said: “I feel betrayed after what I did for the army and the country. I talk to my wife every other day, and she cries on the phone.
“She is very worried. I’m not there and she’s supposed to be having surgery. Everyone in the family is struggling to cope with the pressures of my wife’s poor health. I need to return to the UK to care for my wife.”
Joe, who was prevented from having his father watch him at the World Cup last year in Japan due to the immigration red tape, added: “Between my father, my brother and I, I believe we have served the United Kingdom in more ways than any ordinary British person.
“We have been made to feel that my father has done something wrong, when in fact it is the British army that has let him down. For me, this has been a really bitter pill to swallow.”
“I had immense pride to have served in the British armed forces, and to have both my sons representing England in rugby,” added Ilaitia, whose younger son Philip has played age-grade internationals.
“I now reflect on my army career with underlying bitterness and my pride at my sons’ rugby careers is tainted by the fact that the British government let our family down. I have never done anything unlawful in my life, so to be told that I did not have valid status in the UK was a real blow.”
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