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The Home Office has put a temporary block on deporting Durham academics Ernesto and Arely

Over 65,000 people have now signed the petition

A pair of Durham academics have spoken of their relief after receiving an email from the Home Office, confirming that the process that would see them deported has temporarily been blocked.

Arely Cruz-Santiago and Ernesto Schwartz-Marín had been asked to leave the country within 14 days from Saturday 11 March for spending too long abroad, though they have argued they were doing so on humanitarian research grounds.

Barrister Jolyon Maugham QC, who has been supporting the couple's case, announced the news on Twitter this morning, thanking "everyone who has supported this amazing campaign".

Ernesto Schwartz-Marín said: "It's a relief because I felt the threat of being kicked out by police force and it means we have more time to work on a strategy.

He added: "The next important step for me is to be able to go back to work and it is probably going to be a long battle but we need to challenge these unfair rules on academic freedom."

A campaign on CrowdJustice set up by Jo Maugham QC has seen over £22,000 raised for the pair, while Durham University has contributed £5,000 towards legal proceedings, as well as calling on the Home Office to stop the deportation.

Durham academic forced to leave country

A lecturer and his family have 14 days to leave the UK; a protest was held yesterday in Durham in support of him

Posted by The Tab Durham on Friday, March 16, 2018

The General Secretary of UCU, Sally Hunt, also called on Home Secretary Amber Rudd to halt proceedings on Thursday, asking her department to "review the case as a matter of urgency".

A spokesperson for UCU Northern Region, Jon Bryan, said: "We are delighted to hear the news that Ernesto, Arely and their daughter have had the imminent threat of deportation lifted.

"UCU are proud to be part of the pressure that has been put on the Home Office to re-think their decision. We will continue to offer what support that we can to the family, and will keep up the pressure so that they can remain in the UK to continue their work at Durham University."

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The office of Durham MP Roberta Blackman-Woods confirmed that after being contacted by many constituents "highlighting their concern and dismay at this decision", she wrote to the Home Office "to raise her own concerns".