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Migrant family in limbo as sisters face deportation from Australia

Gloria and Vivien Palmieri. Source: SBS

When Gloria Palmieri came to Australia with her parents and her two sisters more than ten years ago, she couldn't have imagined that her family would one day be facing the grim prospect of being split across two continents unless the Minister for Immigration intervenes.

Ms Palmieri, her two sisters, Vivien and Karen, and their parents moved to Australia from Italy in 2010 when her mother Alfosina got a work visa amid a difficult job market and worsening economy in the European country. 


  • Gloria Palmieri's parents and youngest sister Karen have become Australian citizens while she and Vivien agreed to withdraw their visa applications as they were no longer considered 'dependent'.
  • Ms Palmieri and her sister Vivien have exhausted all their options and are now facing deportation.
  • For the past two years, the two sisters have been waiting for the Minister of Immigration to intervene in their case. 

This wasn't the first time Alfonsina Palmieri was seeking to make Australia her enduring home. 

"My mum actually used to live in Australia when she was a child with her parents and her sister. She was a permanent resident," says Gloria Palmieri. 

"Then, unfortunately, she had to go back to Italy to look after her grandmother since she was the eldest granddaughter and she never renewed her permanent residency. So she lost it." 

So, when Alfonsina Palmieri's work visa was about to run out, her migration agent advised that she could apply to have her Australian permanent residency reinstated.

"No one else thought about this option because it had been 30 years since my mother lost her permanent residency," says Gloria. 

"Then, after providing a lot of documents, doing a lot of research, after spending many hours explaining why my mother did not renew her permanent residency, she was able to get it back, which is something that used to seem impossible," she told SBS Italian.

When Ms Palmieri's mother applied for permanent residency in 2014, she included her husband and three daughters on the application. However, there was a problem. 

"We got a phone call; an official said that because my sister Vivien and I were over 18, we were not considered as dependants. Therefore the options were: 'All out, or just you and your sister leave Australia'," she explains. 

"My sister and I looked at each other and without hesitation signed to agree to the new conditions set by the Department. We decided to look at the glass half full and thought 'three out of five is better than no one'".

So the two sisters removed themselves from the application against their parents’ wish.

Gloria and Vivien
Gloria and Vivien during the filming of the documentary "Who Gets to Stay in Australia".
SBS on Demand

Since then, their parents and youngest sister Karen have become Australian citizens while Gloria and Vivien have exhausted all their options to stay in the country and are facing deportation. 

The family's only hope to stay united in Australia is if the Minister for Immigration intervenes in the case. 

For the past two years, they have been waiting for the minister to weigh in on their case while the sisters remain in Australia on a string of Bridging visas with no work or study rights.   

"Every three months we receive a call to let us know that our bridging visa has been extended by three months," says Gloria Palmieri.

"Now due to COVID-19, our bridging visa has been extended until December. Everything has been put on hold due to the virus." 


Gloria and Vivien Palmieri are just two out of thousands of people who every year are told they need to go back to their home country. 

Every three minutes someone gains permanent residency in Australia but every year more than 40,000 are rejected.

The family's story will be shown on Who Gets to Stay in Australia, a four-part documentary that captures the life-changing moments of 13 migrants when men, women, and families are told whether they can call Australia home, or whether they will be asked to leave.

Gloria Palmieri says initially Vivien and herself were reluctant to share their story for this documentary.

"We were worried that this could backfire as our case is still being assessed," she says. 

But their migration agent insisted that their story had to be told.

Gloria Palmieri believes the documentary will help Australian mainstream society to understand the human stories behind thousands of visa applicants. 

"Behind all these documents, behind all the information on paper, there are human lives, human beings with families, with feelings, that wish they could stay here in Australia [...] because Australia has always been a country that welcomes people from all over the world, and who does not discriminate," she says.  

"Many people who try to move to Australia come from countries like ours where you don't know if you will still have a job the next day... if you will eat the next day.

"That's why many people come to Australia. Because Australia has always been the land of opportunities."


Vivien and Gloria
Vivien and Gloria are respectively 26 and 30 years old.

In an Australian television first, SBS cameras were granted privileged access inside the Administrative Appeals Tribunal to capture these stories.

SBS Director of TV and Online Content, Marshall Heald says the documentary contains stories that include "life and death" decisions for visa applicants. 

"Who Gets To Stay in Australia? puts a human face to the Australian immigration process. 

"We hope it will encourage a deeper understanding of the thousands of people who go through this journey."

Who Gets To Stay in Australia? airs over four weeks from 8.30pm Wednesday 1 July on SBS.

For information in your language about settlement in Australia, visit

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