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Six-time British squash champion Cassie Thomas has been told she can't bring her family back to the UK after her Australian husband was refused a visa.

The 42-year-old former world number one - better known as Cassie Jackman during her playing days - is reeling from a decision which has effectively left her stranded in Melbourne with her husband Matt and their two young daughters.

Norfolk-born Cassie - who was awarded the MBE for her sporting achievements - left England with her family in 2010. She owns a house near Norwich, but her civil engineer husband Matt has been denied a visa despite a guaranteed job offer in Norfolk.

The couple met when Matt was over playing cricket for village team Saham Toney, and were married in 2004. Their daughters were both born at the Norfolk and Norwich University Hospital. But their hopes of returning to Norfolk were crushed when the couple were told by the Home Office that Mr Thomas's application would not be granted because he had left the UK more than two years ago through "personal choice", and now wished to come back through "personal choice".

After five years in Australia the couple wanted to move back to Norfolk, where Cassie's parents still live. She said she was shocked, angry and "a bit disgusted" by the unexpected snub.

"I know immigration is a big issue over there, especially with the coming election," she said, quoted in the Daily Express. "Because there is no control over people from the EU coming into Britain they are targeting non-EU people instead, to try and keep immigration numbers down.

"My husband is from a Commonwealth country, for heaven's sake. We have a house in Norfolk, he has a job waiting for him. He's never claimed benefits and we've always paid our taxes. The girls and I were born in Norfolk and I've represented my country at world level - what more do they want? Why is it okay for a Romanian to bring his family to Britain, but I can't bring mine?"

Cassie, who is currently working as a part-time squash coach in Melbourne, said an immigration lawyer had told them an appeal would be lengthy, costly, and unlikely to succeed. The only other options were to prove they had a minimum of £62,500 in savings for at least six months, or to try to get her husband in on a spouse visa. However, this would mean she had to break up her family by working in England for six months, earning at least £18,6000. They would then face a lengthy application process.

Cassie reached four world open squash finals, winning the title in 1999 when she beat Australian Michelle Martin in the final in Seattle. She won gold and silver medals at the 1998 Commonwealth Games, followed by silver and bronze medals at the 2002 Games. She was presented with her MBE by Prince Charles in a ceremony at Buckingham Palace in 2004. She retired in 2004 due to recurring back problems.


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Visa row: Aussie husband of ex-British squash champ refused UK entry
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