‘I was helpless’: Australians are trapped in a dysfunctional quaid travel waiver system. Australian News

Mubashir Alam’s mother was worried when she suffered a heart attack in Pakistan, but decided not to fly back to Australia, where she has lived for seven years.

“She went to the hospital and was treated there for two days,” he said. “She was OK, she was laughing and everything, everything looked better and normal.”

But five days later, she suffered a stroke that paralyzed one side of her body.

Doctors told her she might not survive and would be in critical condition in the next 48 hours. Her younger siblings urged her to return to Pakistan as soon as possible. With the death of his father, and as the eldest son in the family, he felt a responsibility to return.

But making it Pakistan will not be straightforward.

Alam became an Australian citizen just two weeks before his mother suffered a heart attack. Although he did not know when his mother was hospitalized, the Australian government took an unusual step to ban its citizens and permanent residents from leaving the country due to the corona virus epidemic. Even if they are dual citizens like the scholars.

The government says there are exceptions for compassionate reasons and necessary travel, but there are some guidelines.

As soon as he learned of the travel ban, the cleric sought compassionate immunity for himself, his wife and his newborn daughter. He presented a letter from Abbottabad Hospital treating his mother, stating that the presence of a scholar was necessary to assist in the decision, which consisted of 20 pages of doctor’s notes and test results.

“I was very emotional at the time because the doctors told me she might not survive.” “I was crying.”

He asked the government to expedite the implementation of his request and said that it has been increased. The next day his wife got his discount and he thought she would be the next one too. But nothing happened.

The next day, Alam received a call from his younger brother. Her mother had another stroke.

“It was putting a lot of pressure on me to go now, I want to go,” he says.

When he called the Home Department again, the official was sympathetic, but read his advice on the official website that people submit their applications at least a month before their scheduled travel date.

“I asked her, ‘Look how I know my mother will have a stroke on Friday or Sunday.’

The scholar was told that his request had already increased and he could do nothing else. “They were helpless and so was I.” they say.

For seven days, Alam tested the department, its federal and state MPs, the immigration minister and the media.

The waiver was finally released about a week after he applied. When he spoke to Guardian Australia, Alam was in hospital where his mother had just left the ICU. Doctors said his condition was improving. But he is still under stress before leaving Australia.

“I can’t tell you how it feels when your mother is in the ICU and you can’t travel,” her voice cracked. “If, God forbid, something goes wrong, if something goes wrong, and you can’t get home on time, what do you think you’ll feel for the rest of your life?”

Ambiguous and arbitrary

Alam is one of thousands of Australians seeking to leave the country to visit sick family members, reunite with partners, or emigrate to another country for citizenship, who have been exempted, discretionary and non-existent. Struggled with the actively defined exemption system.

Statistics released under Freedom of Information show that between March 25 and June 22, there were 10,004 exemptions from the ban on expulsions, more than half on sympathy basis – 3,3000 in the same period. Requests denied, The Border Force told the Sydney Morning Herald.

Many say they are happy to pay the quarantine if they return to Australia, and do not understand why traveling abroad is banned. When travel was banned in March, Prime Minister Scott Morrison said: “This will help travelers traveling to Australia with coronaviruses and coronaviruses to avoid the risk of spreading to other countries.”

Claire Hamilton-Bate with her stepfather Keith Martin when she finally arrived at her home in London's Sedcup.

Clary Hamilton-Bate with her stepfather Keith Martin when she moved to London.

Clare Hamilton Beat was last seen in London visiting her 95-year-old stepfather when an e-mail from the Australian government arrived two days earlier.

He submitted his application with six weeks’ notice, but it was rejected because his month-long journey was too “short”.

Doctors gave her stepfather only months to live, and her 90-year-old mother has dementia.

Dual Australian Hamilton Beat, a British citizen, plans to spend a month with his parents to say goodbye to his stepfather and take care of his mother. He applied for a waiver on June 1 with a travel date of July 17.

“I actually did this flight over a very long distance because I thought it was polite to give them enough time to process it.” “I didn’t hear anything, I kept ringing, I heard there was nothing we could do.”

On July 14, she filed a second request with more information about her stepfather’s health.

“I was asked questions [when I called to escalate my request] ‘Is he in the hospital? Is he critical? “She is OK. But the last plan of her stepfather’s life is to raise her at home. Hamilton Butty’s sister is a retired GP and her parents are lucky to have a 24-hour career.

“I said to people at home, ‘Would you keep your 95-year-old father in the hospital in the midst of a cowardly crisis? Because he’s not coming home again.’

He reapplied on July 20, and again with more evidence. The department extended the third application on July 21, and for next week, an online portal said it was “under consideration.”

Claire Hamilton-Bate with her mother Marian Hamilton-Bate at her home in London last week.

Claire Hamilton-Bate with her mother Marian Hamilton-Bate at her home in London last week.

“It was nice to know someone was watching, but it wasn’t going anywhere,” she says.

She says it was painful to wait for an answer. “The furniture was never so shiny because what else do you do? I was going, I need to vacuum everything, I need to be busy, because otherwise you’re checking your email all the time.” ۔ “

Like the scholar, Hamilton Beat eventually contacted his state and federal members and wrote a letter to Labor’s domestic affairs spokeswoman, Christina Kennelly. Its federal MP’s office represented the Department of Home Affairs, which it believes has made a difference.

Her third request was finally approved in the morning when she was about to board a flight. She says it was a “huge” moment.

He was relieved to be in London on his mother’s 90th birthday, but was surprised by the process.

“It just turns out that this is just a little bit of the lottery you get, and if there’s nothing that’s supposed to be or exactly what’s on their list, it’s almost a holding. Is sitting. “

“The biggest disappointment was not knowing. It will be frustrating not to answer, but at least you will know.

Home Affairs did not respond to a request for comment on the processing delay, saying only that applicants should visit the department’s website for information.

‘It’s weird’

Isobel Cameron twice applied for an exemption and received three different responses – twice it was yes, and once it was not.

His partner lives in Denmark and planned to meet him for three months before the last university session in October. Her request referred to her mental health. “My partner was really struggling and so was I.”

Isobel Cameron and her boyfriend.

Isobel Cameron and her boyfriend.

When he received no response to his first request for three weeks, he submitted a second request with new information. Within two hours, he received an e-mail from a domestic affairs officer named Lok stating that he had been approved to travel. A week later, he received another email, this time with another approval from Martin. The following week, a third email came from Doug, stating that he had been banned.

“It’s a stranger,” she says. “I was really angry with Doug.”

With the approval, the rules were changed so that he would have to travel to Australia and pay for his hotel quarantine. Capped flight numbers also mean that it is difficult to find a cheap flight. As a student, travel is still out of reach financially.

Cameron considers herself relatively lucky because she knows she will see her partner again one day.

But she says her experience shows that the department is “disorganized” and the process is “tangled”.

Alam says he hopes the department will change its resourcing to better deal with issues like this. Even if he were a permanent resident, he would have to apply for an exemption, but he suffers from the fact that being an Australian citizen did nothing to help during a family emergency.

“Only two weeks [earlier] I got my citizenship, I felt so privileged. I was very happy that I now have a passport that has so much power and it can help me anywhere in the world; now I can vote and now I can go anywhere, “he says.

“Citizenship, instead of helping me, was going through the most difficult time of my life.”


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