VIDEO: Visa mistake forces 92yo woman out of Australia

March 5, 2010   12:12 pm


Health officials are criticising the deportation of the sole carer of a 92-year-old Melbourne woman. Sri Lanka born Edward Joseph, 69, is expected to be deported at 5pm (AEDT) today even though his mother, Irene, relies heavily on him.


The immigration department has found Mr Joseph, from Sri Lanka, has no lawful basis to remain in the country and has exhausted all appeals.


But the family’s doctor says it’s absurd that Ms Joseph will either be forced to return to Sri Lanka with her son or move into a nursing home because of the decision.


“He cares for her on a daily basis including administering medication,” Ralph Weiner, who had been a GP for the family for more than a decade, said in a statement.


“Her only other option will be to go to a nursing home but why should she have to?”


Mr Joseph first arrived in Australiain 1996, and his mother is a permanent resident here.


Dr Weiner’s comments were supported by a psychiatrist who specialises in mental health and the Australian Nursing Federation (ANF), who both expressed concerns on the possible impact the deportation will have on Ms Joseph’s health.


“Taking away her carer and loved one will put both her mental and physical health in jeopardy,” Lisa Fitzpatrick, secretary for the Victorian branch of the ANF, said in a statement.


“I have serious concerns for her mental health if her primary carer were to be deported,” psychiatrist Mary Davison of the Asylum Seekers Recourse Centre said in a statement.


The immigration department released a statement explaining that Ms Joseph has other children who reside in Australia who could care for her and that she is a permanent resident with access to Medicare. Her son had first arrived in Australiain 1996 as a tourist and applied for a protection visa.


His application, however, was refused and eight intervention requests were rejected under both the Howard and Rudd Governments.


“He has made numerous unsuccessful legal appeals, including to the High Court, and all have determined that Mr Joseph has no grounds to remain in Australia,” the statement said.


A spokesman for the department told AAP that Mr Joseph has volunteered to leave Australiaat 5pm today and noted that his lawyer has publicly stated the department has been extremely patient with him.



TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Tomorrow afternoon a 69-year-old man will be deported from Australiato Sri Lanka.

As the sole carer of his ailing 92-year-old mother, he’s forced to take her with him.

Edward Joseph has exhausted all avenues of appeal after almost 14 years on bridging visas and multiple appeals to courts and three federal Immigration Ministers.

What makes this case unique is that his mother Irene Joseph was also given a temporary visa when she returned to Australia in 1996, despite having earlier been granted Australian residency.

The critical mistake was discovered by a lawyer late last year and her status as a legal resident was restored. However, it was too late to help her son’s case.

Had the mistake been discovered earlier, she could have sponsored him to stay in the country as her sole carer, but his case had already gone through the courts and the Immigration Minister refuses to reconsider it.

Hamish Fitzsimmons reports.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS, REPORTER: Irene Joseph is 92-years-old. She’s been living in Australiafor the past 14 years.

(Woman sobs)

The reason she’s so upset is that tomorrow, despite the fact she’s a legal Australian resident, she has to get on a plane and leave the country with her son.

IRENE JOSEPH: I don’t like to go but I’m forced to. If he’s going I have to go. (Sobs)

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Her 69-year-old son Edward is her sole carer but he’s being deported back to Sri Lanka.

EDWARD JOSEPH: She’s 92 and in our country the general thing is that we care for our parents. I don’t think uh... I dont think, uh... she would survive if she was here for long.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Mrs Joseph and her husband migrated to Australia in 1979.

Soon after, they returned to Sri Lankaand Mrs Joseph came back to Australiaas a widow in 1996 accompanied by her son Edward, who came on a tourist visa.

Then, instead of being given a returning resident visa, which would have meant she qualified for health benefits and could sponsor her son Edward, she was given a bridging visa, which didn’t entitle her to anything.

And that’s where the Josephs’ problems began, according to the family’s lawyer, former Victorian Magistrate and former Refugee Review Tribunal head Murray Gerkens.

MURRAY GERKENS, LAWYER: Her being a resident at that stage, she could then have sponsored her son Edward to come to Australia as her carer and both of them, by this time, would no doubt be permanent residents and probably long-time citizens.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: In 2002, Edward Joseph’s visa was changed to a bridging visa-E, which meant he could no longer work or get health benefits.

Edward Joseph’s several applications for asylum failed; a subsequent high court case failed and eight requests for intervention involving successive immigration ministers since 2001 have been denied.

EDWARD JOSEPH: I thought I’d have a better life here but now I’ve been asked to leave by the 5th, suffering for six and a half years without a job.

They’ve prohibited me from working six and a half year. I’ve had no medicare, no work rights, no study, nothing.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Up until late last year, successive doctors had declared Mrs Joseph was unfit to travel.

And that was confirmed by a medical check organised by the Immigration Department last November, but when Edward Joseph says he returned to the same doctor just a few hours after that appointment, the doctor had changed her mind and suddenly his mother was declared fit to travel.

MURRAY GERKENS: Now the department - it was common ground for a long period of time that she was not fit to travel.

Suddenly the department’s decided - and I must say, they have a medical advice to that effect - that she is fit to travel. But they had medical advice to the contrary before that...

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Why did they suddenly decide...

MURRAY GERKENS: Really, I can’t see that anything has changed.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Why did they suddenly decide she was fit to travel?

MURRAY GERKENS: I think you need to ask them that.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Some big names have weighed in to support the Josephs, including the Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart, the Labor Member for Chisolm and Deputy Speaker of the Federal Parliament, Anna Burke, and, when he was in opposition, Lindsay Tanner.

Appeals to the Immigration Department and the Minister have been ignored. Immigration Department staff even refused to put Edward Joseph’s latest plea directly to the Minister.

EDWARD JOSEPH: I can remember people at compliance... I was saying that I had to care for my mother and if I’m sent back, there’s no one to care for her.

They say that your mother is not an issue for us because she’s legal in this country but you have to leave. So I have no other option but I must take her away.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: The Immigration and Citizenship Minister, Senator Chris Evans, declined a request for an interview but said in a statement:

“Mr Edward Joseph is a Sri Lankan national who has repeatedly been found to have no lawful basis to remain in Australia. Despite having exhausted all avenues of review, Mr Joseph has refused to leave Australia.

He has made numerous unsuccessful legal appeals, including to the High Court, and all have determined that Mr Joseph has no grounds to remain in Australia.”

The Immigration Department says that because Mrs Joseph was sponsored to come back to Australia by a son living here, she’s his responsibility, but he and a stepdaughter in Australiahave signed statutory declarations saying they are unable to care for her.

The stepdaughter says she needs care herself and the son says he has work commitments which prevent him from being his mother’s full time carer.

MURRAY GERKENS: Where’s our, um, our spirit of generosity that we can’t let this old lady spend the rest of her life in her familiar surroundings in this country, rather than send her back to a country which has been racked by civil war and is still suffering civil unrest.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Back at their accommodation provided by the Catholic church, the Josephs are packing.

EDWARD JOSEPH: I don’t know what im going to do so I’m just going.

HAMISH FITZSIMMONS: Edward and Irene Joseph will return to Sri Lanka and an uncertain future tomorrow afternoon.

Hamish Fitzsimmons Lateline.


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