Someone Slipped Through the Cracks
Through the steam generated by the talk of turnbacks and offshore processing, it is easy to lose sight of less florid but certainly deserving cases for compassion in migration
We need to talk about ‘Sam’. Sam came here on a student visa in 1992. He was 26 years old. He lost all his money to a fraudulent college. He ran out of visa options in 1998 so he tried to apply for what was called a “resolution of status” visa. Due to an administrative error, the application was not completely finalized until 2011 and in the meantime he was on a bridging visa. He was never ‘unlawful’ so Immigration never came looking for him. And he just blended in.
Like many Koreans, Sam is a practicing Christian. He is an active member of St Kilda Baptist church where he is deeply loved and appreciated. He has spent his years here playing local soccer and coaching kids sport, manning soup kitchens, running marathons for charity, helping backstage with community theatre and doing odd jobs at Church. In return, his many friends fed him and gave him lodgings.
Sam has nothing to go back to in Korea (his parents are deceased and he has infrequent contact with one of his sisters). But he had no work or Medicare rights and no permanent right to live in Australia. Financially his situation was not going to be sustainable in the long term. So his friends encouraged him to go to Immigration and try to work things out. The bureaucratic and legal wheels started turning again. The visa application was re-opened and refused, and a subsequent appeal to the Migration Review Tribunal was unsuccessful.
Sam didn’t meet the criteria for the visa. But this put him in a position to ask the Minister for his personal help. Under the Migration Act the Minister has the power to substitute a negative Tribunal decision in the public interest.
The exercise of the power can’t be compelled and is completely in the Minister’s discretion. But there are official guidelines outlining what the Minister will look at. They say that the public interest may be served through the Government responding with care and compassion in a situation involving unique or exceptional circumstances. Factors to be considered in the guidelines include the length of a person’s time in Australia and degree of their integration into the community.
Everybody’s situation is unique and exceptional to differing degrees. Sam had been in Australia for 23 years. That is nearly half his life. It’s almost all of his adult life. He no longer has any connection with Korea; his home is Australia. He was able to stay this long because of an Australian government mistake. In his small way he strengthens the social fabric of Australia. You’d have to turn yourself inside out and upside down to find a reason to say no. but that is what Minister Dutton has done.
We recognize that there are many urgent issues that the Australian Immigration Department needs to respond to. We ask that Minister Dutton consider Sam’s situation with care and compassion and give him permission to remain in Australia. To allow Sam to stay in Australia will not cost Australia anything. He will continue to make a wonderful contribution to Australian society.
For further information or to find out more about our petition and letter writing campaign to Minister Dutton, please contact Rev Stacey Aslangul (St Kilda Baptist Church) on 0402 217 750.
Genevieve Hamilton, Solicitor and Migration Agent
0402 426 190
12th November 2015
UPDATE: 17 November 2015 – Sam’s story was published in The Age on 18 November 2015. Please click on this link for more info http://stkildabaptist.org.au/whats-new/sams-story-in-the-age-18-november-2015/