DOZENS of campaigners turned out in force to support a heavily pregnant mum and her husband who face being separated through deportation.

A petition to prevent Grace Smith, who is seven months pregnant - from being sent back to China following the refusal of her third visa bid has collected more than 3,000 signatures.

With the campaign gathering so much support, Chinese national Grace - who lives in Manningtree with husband Dean - invited residents to support her at Tendring Council's meeting on Tuesday night.

About 50 people attended the meeting where Carlo Guglielmi, Tendring councillor for Manningtree, discussed the couple's case.

Mr Guglielmi was able to get his motion passed by the council to write to the Home Secretary and the Home Office to suspend the couple's case until a comprehensive review of the case is carried out by the council.

Mr Guglielmi said: "I was delighted the the council gave its full support to Dean and Grace.

"From a council point of view, we will do all we can to get the Home Office to reconsider its decision.

"We hope it will take into account the heartache of splitting up a family and the emotional rollercoaster the couple has been on.

Grace moved to the UK in 2015 with Dean after they met in China where they lived more than a decade ago.

But Home Office bosses refused Grace's initial visa bid in February.

The 34-year-old's second application was refused on March 18 after suggesting the financial requirements were not met - a claim the couple heavily dispute.

To remain in the UK, the couple must earn a combined income of £18,600.

Dean is a self-employed exercise specialist and Grace worked full-time at Marks and Spencer.

The couple received a third visa rejection this month - which withdrew Grace's right to work in the UK.

Dean Smith, 53, said: "The support has been overwhelming and I can't remember a time a community has come together like this in my lifetime - it's very humbling.

"The meeting has given my wife her faith back in the country.

"Before, she felt persecuted and shunned like she was not wanted here by the Government.

"But she now feels a bit more loved and like she has the right to be here.

"As a British citizen you are expected to contribute, and we have both worked since we have gotten here."

He said since arriving in the UK Grace has volunteered for St Helena Hospice, worked for Marks and Spencer and taught yoga.

"You earn your right to be there through hard work and diligence and that's why I believe the community is behind us,"he added.

The Home Office has been contacted by the Gazette.