Australian visas: Email tells Melbourne mum to leave Australia hours after her sister died
A family who moved to Australia to help care for a dying relative are fighting to stay in the country after being asked to leave just hours after their loved one died.
Bonnieta Silvery “gave up everything” in India and moved to Melbourne in 2016 to look after her sister Charlotte Dara, who was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening blood disorder.
The 47-year-old started to build a life here – her husband got a job and son started university – while she spent “day and night” with her sister, but when Dara passed away she was told the visa he waited years. because there was no more wax on the table.
Bonnieta Silvery’s sister Charlotte Dara, left, was diagnosed with a rare and life-threatening blood disorder in 2014. (Supply)
“They’re just kicking us out,” Silvery told 9news.com.au.
Silvery initially traveled back and forth between Melbourne and India and only decided to move after her Dara and her husband Samuel suggested she make it permanent with the whole family.
She applied for the carer visa, which allows permanent residence, with her husband Brendon and son Joshua after ending their successful wedding business in India.
The government worker said the family passed the strict rules to qualify for the visa, which costs just under $4000.
This included her sister being examined by government-appointed BUPA doctors, who agreed she needed a carer and had two years to live.
They lived in Australia under a bridging visa while they waited a notoriously long waiting period for the other to be approved.
Silvery said she spent a lot of time with her sister in the hospital. (Supply)
The Home Office website said the wait for new applications for the carer visa was seven years as of last month.
An expert told nine.com.au when the family applied it was about three years.
As they waited, Dara became progressively sicker with severe aplastic anemia – a rare disorder in which the bone marrow does not produce enough blood cells.
Silvery spent most of her time looking after her sister, who was an Australian citizen, often leaving her husband and son alone in their new country while they juggled a full-time job.
“I was with her day and night in the hospital,” she said.
Her husband started a successful business in event management and transportation, while her son enrolled in university.
The family was encouraged when they were contacted by the department to ask for more information to process the visa, indicating that it is finally getting ahead of the queue.
Days later, Dara died.
Insensitive email on day of beloved sister’s death
Silvery contacted immigration officials to let them know of her older sister’s death on the day she died, October 21, 2019.
“They showed no empathy that I had just lost my sister,” she said.
“We wouldn’t have given up everything in India before making the big move if it was a temporary visa.”
Silvery emailed immigration officials to let them know her sister had died – and was told the visa had been rejected. (Supply)
The family went to the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to overturn the decision, but officials said they no longer qualified for that visa since her sister had died.
The years they waited for the visa to be processed while caring for Dara, which Silvery said saved the government money, didn’t matter.
“I feel we have been used and abused,” she said.
The family is not allowed to leave the country while they fight to stay.
“We lived like prisoners,” Silvery said.
The Silvery family with Bonnieta Silvery’s sister Charlotte Dara and her husband, Samuel. (Supply)
They are due to return to Hyderabad in India in June.
It’s a prospect Silvery said caused all of them, including her widowed brother-in-law, severe stress.
Her son is the only one who can stay because he will qualify for a student visa while studying.
But that doesn’t help his parents who wouldn’t qualify for any other kind of visa.
Visa waiting times (nine)
‘It’s not the Australian way’: Carers’ contribution not valued by government
What the family is going through is “very common”, according to migration agent Mateja Rautner.
She argued the government should recognize the valuable contribution carers make to the Australian community.
“The carers who come to Australia to look after their family members come with genuine intentions to help, often putting their own lives on hold to help others,” Rautner told 9news.com.au.
Silvery, along with husband Brendon (51) and son Joshua (21), applied for the carer visa which would enable her to look after her sister and settle in Australia with her family in 2016. (Supply)
“It is not fair or compassionate, and not the Australian way, that these visa holders are asked to leave Australia in such a short and sudden manner when dealing with the loss of a family member they have cared for.
“They should be shown compassion and allowed to stay in Australia permanently.”
An Interior Department spokesman declined to comment on the Silvery family’s case.
“All non-citizens who apply for visas to enter and remain in Australia are considered on an individual basis and against legal requirements set out in Australia’s migration legislation,” a statement to 9news.com.au said.
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