England rugby players’ ex-soldier father stuck abroad due to immigration rules

A former British army sergeant whose two sons are English rugby internationals is stuck in Fiji and unable to return to the United Kingdom.

Ilaitia Cokanasiga, who served 14 years in the armed forces; touring in Iraq twice and Afghanistan once, has been prevented by immigration rules from returning to the UK.

The 48-year-old revealed he has tear-filled telephone conversations with his wife every other day as she prepares to undergo cancer treatment in London.

 And he was unable to see his 22-year-old son Joe Cokanasiga, who plays for Bath, represent England at the Rugby World Cup in Japan due to the issues. Younger brother Phil Cokanasiga, who is at London Isish, has also represented England U18’s.

“I feel betrayed after what I did for the army and the country,” he told the Guardian exclusively.

“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.

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‘I had immense pride to have served in the British armed forces, and to have both my sons representing England in rugby. I now reflect on my army career with underling bitterness and my pride at my sons’ rugby careers is tainted by the fact that the British government let our family down.

Commonwealth citizens who have served for more than four years in the British army are eligible for indefinite leave to remain, but this ends when they leave the army.

They do have the option of regularising their status, but many have struggled to pay for this as application fees soared from £1,051 in 2015 to £2,389 today.

Unaware of the issue, hundreds of Commonwealth-born veterans have not registered with some being detained, asked to leave and even removed from jobs.

Legal action was launched against the Home Office and Ministry of Defence last week accusing officials of a ‘systemic failure’ to assist the veterans.


 5 players dubbed the next Jonah Lomu

1. Julian Savea

In 2010 Savea was touted as ‘the next Jonah Lomu‘. The powerhouse then stormed onto the international stage in 2012 and quickly proved himself as a powerful runner with ball in hand, hense the Lomu comparision, scoring nine tries in his debut season. In 2014 he went up a gear, scoring eight tries in eight Tests at a rate to equal that of the All Blacks’ greatest wingers.

Savea showed his tremendous try-scoring abilities in 2015, scoring eight tries in eight matches, including a stunning treble against France in the RWC 2015 quarterfinal, one of which secured him the International Rugby Players Try of the Year Award. He was also nominated for the International Player of the Year Award in 2015.

In total he scored 46 tries in 54 appearances for the All Blacks before moving to Toulon in 2018.

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