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Indian family hoping for last-minute reprieve as deportation looms

80-year-old Florence Allen (right) with her daughter Sheryil. Source:

An online petition started by the family has gathered nearly 60,000 signatures but with the looming visa deadline, its toll is beginning to show.

An Indian family is hoping for a last-minute breather from the Immigration department as the deadline for an elderly woman and her autistic daughter to leave Australia draws closer.

80-year-old Florence Allen and her daughter Sheryil (50) have until 3rd October to leave Australia after their permanent residency application was turned down and an appeal for a ministerial intervention being subsequently declined by Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke.

Ms Allen and Sheryil moved to Australia in 2012, where all her family members have been living, some since 1991. With no family left in India, Ms Allen’s daughter Jackie Vanderholt applied for her mother and autistic sister’s permanent residents’ visas. However, the visa application was rejected due to the disability suffered by Sheryil, on the grounds that she will be a burden on taxpayers. Assistant Immigration Minister Alex Hawke said it would not be in Public interest to intervene in this case.

An online petition by Ms Vanderholt requesting the Immigration Minister Peter Dutton to intervene on “humanitarian grounds” has so far gathered nearly 60,000 signatures.

However, Ms Allen’s children say the toll of the looming deadline was beginning to show in the family.  

“The whole family is quite tense, it’s a very stressful time,” Elroy Allen told Star Weekly.

“We’ve been overwhelmed by the support we’ve received, many people have appealed to the minister, we’ve received many letters of support and the online petition continues to grow.”

Ms Vanderholt says returning to India where her mother would have no support means her autistic sister will be required to be sent to a mental institution.

“This would cause her great trauma, despair and inconsolable grief as she has never lived a life without her family,” she says.

“We will be forever grateful if you just consider her [Sheryil’s] case without the disability lens and give her permanent residency without access to disability benefits,” Ms Vanderholt says in her petition to the Immigration Minister.

“The failure to recognise unity and care of a family that has considered disability as a blessing is likely to result in serious irreversible harm and continuing hardship, not only to my Mum and my sister but also to our Australian family unit,” she says.

However, with the approaching deadline, the family is now beginning to work on the logistics of caring for Ms Allen and Sheryil in India, which they say would mean taking turns to travel to India.

“It’s quite overwhelming to think of,” Mr Allen said.

“We’ll have to set up a home for my mother and sister, take it in turns to fly over, take time off work regularly, and also continue to support our own children here in Australia.

“My mother is 80, she can’t do all this herself. It’s killing us at the moment.”

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