THOUSANDS of people have signed a petition calling for two academics at a North-East university to be given the right to stay in the UK.

Within 24 hours of the petition being launched, more than 6,000 people signed it, calling for Ernesto Schwartz-Marin and Arely Cruz-Santiago, a married couple working at Durham University, to be allowed to stay in the country.

The couple, who live in Durham with their 11-year-old daughter Camila, have been told they have less than two weeks to leave the country.

The Home Office says they refused their application for indefinite leave to remain in the UK because they exceeded the 180 days applicants are permitted to be out of the country.

In 2014 and 2015, they spent 270 days in Mexico carrying out research, funded by the Economic and Social Research Council, to create the country’s first ever citizen-led DNA database to help people to identify victims of violence.

They say the time spent in Mexico should not count against them because they were assisting with a humanitarian crisis, which has seen around 160,000 people killed and 30,000 disappear.

They moved to the UK in 2007 and to Durham in 2012.