Coronavirus

After five attempts, this Melbourne family will finally be allowed to reunite in Germany

"We just want to be together in these difficult times". Dyko in late 2016 with Kaan, Yasemin and Iggy. Source: supplied

Australia has allowed more than 4,000 people to leave the country since its borders were closed on 20 March to control coronavirus, while more than 1,000 applications have been rejected.

A German-Australian family based in Melbourne has described the "traumatic" ordeal of trying to get permission to leave Australia and join their mother in Germany.

As hundreds of temporary visa holders stranded overseas fight to return to Australia, it's also providing difficult for dual citizens and permanent residents to get permission to leave the country since coronavirus forced the borders shut on 20 March. 

Dyko, a musician, and his sons Kaan, 13, and Iggy, 20, who are all dual citizens, had to apply five times before a travel ban exemption was approved so they could join wife and mother Yasemin, who is not a permanent resident in Australia

Dyko, pictured in his hometown of Melbourne, has dual German citizenship, but his wife does not.
Dyko, pictured in his hometown of Melbourne, has dual German citizenship, but his wife does not.
Facebook 'Dyko'

Dyko, who did not want his family's last name to be published, said he could not understand why their application was rejected four times. 

"I just felt violated as a citizen, to be honest," he said. 

"There's the mother of my children stranded over there and we just wanted to be reunited as a family during this traumatic time."

Between 25 March and 6 May, Australian Border Force approved 4,002 exemptions for outbound travellers, 2,189 of which were given on compassionate grounds. 

Another 1,065 applications were denied in that period. 

Border Force did not tell SBS News how many applications were received, approved or denied since 6 May.

Principal of Australian Travel and Tourism Lawyers Barrie Goldsmith said there was no doubt the federal government had taken a "hard line" on international movement.

"We've had regular inquiries... perhaps the most dramatic was an English guy who was also an Australian citizen who wanted to go back to the UK for his father's funeral," he told SBS News.

"The moment you open that door people are going to push it wide open, and that's what [the government] is afraid of, so they've just said we'll pretty well keep that door closed apart from exceptional circumstances." 

For others hoping to be granted an exemption to leave Australia, Mr Goldsmith had some advice.

"If you believe you're eligible for exemption, provide full documentation and persuasive materials, be very clear and precise and be sure you've got a good reason," he said.

"Otherwise, they're just not going to let you go." 

Father and sons to leave this week

Dyko hasn't seen his wife since February. 

Yasemin has been a flight attendant with German airline Lufthansa for 25 years, and has been commuting back and forth to Australia in between blocks of work since Dyko and the boys relocated to Melbourne three years ago.

"My wife basically does fly in, fly out - she flies here and spends five weeks with us, and then she flies back to Germany and works for a few weeks before coming back," Dyko, who did not want to use his last name, told SBS News.

"She did that in February and then all of a sudden the borders just locked up." 

With his sons growing anxious to see their mother, Dyko applied for permission to leave Australia six weeks ago.

Dyko's son, Iggy.
Dyko's son, Iggy.
supplied

He faced rejection after rejection in the weeks that followed, sending copies of birth certificates, passports, tax returns to Border Force to no avail.

"The first few were just cold knockbacks with no given reason. They were extremely unempathetic and there was no room for dialogue - just reapply and try again," he said.

"It was increasingly traumatic for our 13 year old, but they said I would have to provide medical certificates to prove the children are suffering."  

Dyko said he did just that, reaching out to child psychologists for support after his fifth application was knocked back.

Kaan has taken to baking during the lockdown.
Kaan has taken to baking during the lockdown.
supplied

However, that same application that was rejected came back as approved the following day.  

Dyko and his two sons are now on standby to fly back to Germany, hoping to secure airfares early this week.

The government has not given any indication as to when Australia's border restrictions might be eased.

People in Australia must stay at least 1.5 metres away from others. Check your state’s restrictions on gathering limits.

Testing for coronavirus is now widely available across Australia. If you are experiencing cold or flu symptoms, arrange a test by calling your doctor or contact the Coronavirus Health Information Hotline on 1800 020 080. 

The federal government's coronavirus tracing app COVIDSafe is available for download from your phone's app store.

SBS is committed to informing Australia’s diverse communities about the latest COVID-19 developments. News and information is available in 63 languages at sbs.com.au/coronavirus 

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