UK
09/12/2013 14:16 GMT | Updated 25/01/2014 21:01 GMT

Trenton Oldfield Brands Australia A 'Racist Country' In Last Ditch Bid To Stay In UK

Trenton Oldfield, the Australian activist who disrupted last year's Oxford v Cambridge boat race, has said he can't be deported to Australia because it is "a particularly racist country."

Oldfield said if he was forced to return to Australia, he would not bring wife Deepa Naik, who is of Indian descent, or his daughter back with him because of "passive aggressive" racists.

"Australia to Deepa... is a particularly racist country," he said. "There are particularly racist attacks on people of Indian descent."

He went on to say while most of it was "water cooler" or unintentional racism, some Indians in Australia had been burned and physically assaulted. "I don't think I could put either Deepa or my child through that," he said.

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Ms Naik had to leave the hearing after their baby started crying, but returned later to give evidence.

Mr Oldfield said he could not bear to be separated from his wife, which was the hardest thing for him during his prison term. He said his wife had never been to Australia and had no interest in doing so.

"Meeting Deepa was like meeting the person you'd always been searching for," he said.

"We're muses for each other, but also our strongest critics. Everything we do is together. Every single part of our life is entangled together."

Oldfield is likely to stay in the UK after making an impassioned plea at an immigration tribunal.

Judge Moore, who will hand down his decision within four to six weeks and said later that a decision would be made within 10 days, added that although it was not final, he intended to allow Mr Oldfield's appeal.

Supporters of Mr Oldfield ran up to hug him after the decision was announced.

Oldfield, who served six months in jail for disrupting the boat race, broke down during his impassioned plea in a last-ditch effort to remain in the UK.

Speaking outside, Mr Oldfield told reporters: "I'm delighted to be able to get back to my work and spend time with my family".

Trenton Oldfield, 37, who has lived in the UK for 10 years, had his application for a spousal visa refused earlier this year.

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Trenton Oldfield arriving at Isleworth Crown Court last year for his trial with partner, Deepa Naik. The couple are now married

The Home Office deemed Mr Oldfield's presence in the country was "undesirable" given his April 2012 disruption of the famous sporting event to protest against what he described as "entrenched elitism" in the UK.

Mr Oldfield appealed over the decision, which was heard before judge Kevin Moore at the Asylum and Immigration Tribunal in Islington, north London, on Monday.

The protester, who has a five-month-old daughter, told the tribunal he was inspired to swim into the Thames and disrupt the race to make his point after caring for his British wife's father, who was suffering from cancer.

"I think I was vulnerable in terms of realising how short life can be," an emotional Mr Oldfield sobbed to the court.

"I saw poverty and I saw the laws the government were passing that were going to make life substantially harder.

"I think I was very emotional. When you go around London, you can see the pockets of deprivation that still exist."

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Oldfield after being pulled from the Thames during the 2012 Boat Race

Mr Oldfield said he worked with his wife in not-for-profit organisations and various charities.

He rejected the Home Office's ruling he was "undesirable" in the UK, saying he had worked to improve peoples' lives since arriving.

"I fell in love with London within two hours of arriving," he said.

"There was room for people like me... who were interested in justice, interested in fairness."

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Mr Oldfield said he regretted many aspects of his protest, particularly the impact it had on his family and he would not be repeating his actions.

Ms Naik later told the tribunal she had no idea Mr Oldfield was going to conduct the protest.

But she said she understood why her caring husband took the drastic step after seeing inequality and wanting to act.

"When Trenton swam in the Thames, he had no idea at the time the potential consequence would be a prison sentence," she said.

"It is the first and only time Trenton has done a protest like this."

Ms Nair said she did not want to think what would happen if Mr Oldfield was deported.

"It's something I don't want to fathom," she said, "It would mean the destruction of everything we've ever worked on."

Ms Nair said she did not want to go to to Australia because she did not have any family or support networks there.

She said even if she did want to go, Australia's strict immigration laws would mean there would be a forced separation between Mr Oldfield and his family.

There were 23 people at the tribunal willing to give positive evidence in favour of Mr Oldfield.

However, the judge only heard from a few, including an Oxford professor who said Mr Oldfield's work to help end inequality was a benefit to British society.

The court was also handed a petition with signatures from 265 Cambridge and Oxford staff and students who did not want Mr Oldfield to be deported.