A FAMILY whose two-year-old son was ordered to leave the country have been granted a Christmas reprieve while Home Office officials consider the case.

Alun and Paula Bendle, who live in North Swindon, began the process of formally adopting Harrison in South Africa when he was just two-months-old.

But due to various bureaucratic hiccups, the couple were recently told that Harrison must leave the country before Christmas.

“I was totally devastated when I received the letter saying he had to go,” said Alun.

“I felt sick and confused and couldn’t understand why they would say that Harrison couldn’t stay with his family.”

Both Alun and Paula were born in the UK, but lived for seven years in South Africa where their elder sons Nathan, seven, who is also adopted, and William, six, were born.

Two years ago, while in the process of adopting Harrison, Alun and Paula decided to return to Britain.

When Alun received a job offer in the UK, they brought Harrison home with the rest of the family on a visitor’s visa, pending the imminent completion of his adoption, which the couple intended to finalise on a return trip to South Africa.

Then a change in the law in South Africa prevented Harrison’s adoption being finalised as a domestic adoption in that country, and instead was being treated as an inter-country case to be completed from the UK.

But just a few weeks ago the Home Office ruled that Harrison could not stay in the UK due to his visitor’s visa having expired, leaving the family in an impossible situation.

However, on Friday the family were relieved to hear that government officials had decided to give them a reprieve over Christmas, promising to look at the case again in the New Year.

However, the threat of deportation is still hanging over Harrison as the family go into 2018.

A grateful Alan said: “This means we can get through Christmas without worrying that someone is going to come and take our son away.

“I don’t blame the Home Office because they are only doing their jobs, and they probably don’t have the time and funds to look closely at every case.

“But he’s not taking anything from anybody. He’s not taking anyone’s job. He’s just a two-year-old boy who is asking to stay with his family.

“But we are so glad that we’ll be able to have something that resembles a normal Christmas for the family.”

A Home Office spokesman said: “Mr and Mrs Bendle submitted an application for Harrison solely as a visitor. The maximum permitted stay as a visitor is six months.

“There are a variety of other immigration routes open to Mr and Mrs Bendle if they wish to finalise an overseas adoption in the UK or for a child to settle in the UK. These applications must be made from overseas.”