Immigration

Exclusive: Great-grandmother, 93, could be deported after 11 years in Australia

Mollie Manley and her great-granddaughter Jasmine, 3. Source: Supplied

Mollie Manley’s family say she will not survive the 22-hour flight from Australia to the UK if she is forced to leave the country.

Mollie Manley has lived in Australia for 11 years.

Her three grandchildren and nine great-grandchildren - all Australian citizens - visit her each week in an aged care home just outside of Perth. They sing together and listen to her tales of when she was a ballroom dancer.

The 93-year-old, who is originally from Somerset in England, recently had a health scare and the family gathered around her bedside to say their final goodbyes.

Mollie Manley
Mollie Manley with her four-year-old great granddaughter, Jasmine, in her aged care home last year.
Supplied

She survived, but is now facing a forced return to her home country - where she has no remaining relatives - after failing Australia's permanent visa requirements on health grounds.

“It's unfortunate because she's now in the situation of being very old and infirm and in limbo,” Ms Manley’s son-in-law Robert Rowe told SBS News.

Despite arriving in Australia in good health, she now suffers severe visual impairment and requires daily assistance to live.

The government’s immigration health criteria dictates an applicant for permanent residency must be free from a disease or condition which “would be likely to require health care or community services" and result in more than $40,000 in costs.

According to the government’s costings, Ms Manley’s care will cost $145,000 over a three-year period.

Mollie Manley, far left, and her family in Australia.
Mollie Manley, far left, and her family in Australia.
Supplied

The close-knit family has not yet told Ms Manley about her visa situation for fears she will be distraught but feel strongly that her story should be heard.

“It would kill her if we told her,” Mr Rowe, whose wife has legal power of attorney for Ms Manley, said.

“Old people worry about simple things like if their lunch is late. You try telling them they're going to be deported.”

Ms Manley’s granddaughter Lauren Oliver, who lives in Perth, said she takes her three children; Logan, 9, Evan, 7, and Jasmine, 3, to see their great-grandmother as often as possible.

“She's very frail but her eyes light up when she sees them,” she said.

“She always tries to sing with them as well, she’s always loved her songs.”

Mollie Manley with great grandchildren Logan, 9, Evan, 7, and Jasmine, 3.
Ms Manley with great grandchildren Logan, 9, Evan, 7, and Jasmine, 3.
Supplied

According to disability advocacy groups, more than 15 families are threatened with deportation from Australia every year due to one family member's disability or illness.

Mr Rowe, who moved to Australia with his wife nearly 15 years ago to be with his adult children who had immigrated, said his mother-in-law had originally come to Australia four years later on a visitors visa before launching her application for an Aged Parent visa (subclass 804).

Aged parent visas are available to people with more than half of their children living in Australia, who are old enough to receive the age pension, pass the medical and character tests, and are able to provide assurance that they will not rely on the government for support.

Ms Manley’s family was told the application process would take up to 13 years, during which time she would be allowed to stay in the country on a bridging visa. The waiting period for parent visas can be up to 30 years.

For most of this time, Ms Manley was looked after by her family until she was placed into an aged care home two years ago after her daughter, who is her only child, had a stroke. According to Mr Rowe, her care has so far been covered under the Reciprocal Health Care Agreement between Australia and the UK.

But on 13 May, the family received a letter informing them Ms Manley had not met the health requirement and therefore failed her application for a visa unless the family was able to provide a reason why the ruling was incorrect.

Lauren Oliver
Lauren Oliver, left, said she wants to be able to care for her grandmother into her old age.
Supplied

The decision by the Medical Officer of the Commonwealth (MOC) cites the fact Ms Manley requires “significant assistance with activities of daily living” and that she is “currently living in a residential aged care facility”.

“Provision of these health care and/or community services would be likely to result in a significant cost to the Australian community in the areas of health care and/or community services,” the decision read.

After receiving the letter, Ms Manley's migration agent Andrew Kurowski said the visa would likely be "refused in due course".

When that formal rejection comes, Ms Manley will have the opportunity to appeal through the Administrative Appeals Tribunal, a process that could take up to two years, but Mr Kurowski said he doesn't believe appealing would change the outcome.

"I don't believe the tribunal is likely to change that decision. She simply is not meeting the criteria," he said.

"The next step would be ministerial intervention, and this, if she's still alive, I would think probably succeed because it would be unconscionable to deport her."

Mr Rowe, who works full time in cleaning and maintenance, said he accepts the government’s determination that Ms Manley’s care will cost Australia’s health system, but believes the cost is justified because her direct relatives are paying taxes in Australia and it will only be for a short period of time due to her failing health.

Ms Manley
Robert Rowe said he doesn't believe Ms Manley would survive the flight back to the UK.
Supplied

“The fact is it's only going to be likely for a short period of time. She really nearly died about eight weeks ago,” he said.

“We were we were all called to her bedside and the doctor said 'her heartbeat was down ... and we think she's going to pass now' - but she rallied.”

Ms Manley would be cut off from her entire family if forced to return home.

“I just think it's very sad for a lady of that age to die alone without her family around,” said Ms Oliver, who has lived in Australia since she was a teenager. She said she would not be able to travel back to the UK frequently due to the cost.

In an email to Home Affairs, sent on 22 May, Mr Rowe urged the department to consider that his mother-in-law had no living relatives in the UK.

“Also at her age, any plane journey will kill her, are you happy to weather the fall out that will cause?” the letter read.

He said Ms Manley can barely walk to the bathroom unassisted, let alone fly the 22-hour journey to the UK.

Based on the letter from the Department of Home Affairs, Mr Rowe expects to be notified that Ms Manley has 28 days to leave the country this week, coinciding with her 93rd birthday.

A Department of Home Affairs spokesperson said they did not comment on individual cases but that all “non-citizens applying for visas to enter or remain in Australia are considered on a case by case basis and against legal requirements set out in Australia’s migration legislation”.

“This includes the requirement that an applicant meets relevant health checks,” they said.

“The Department acknowledges that due to the high demand for parent visas, processing times are often lengthy and that [an] individual’s personal circumstances, including health, can change.”

But for Ms Oliver, her grandmother is more “than just a number on a piece of paper”.

“She's not a drain on the society, she's a 93-year-old lady who is going to die peacefully in her bed,” she said.

“And to us, she's a valued member of our family and we love her to bits and we want to take care of her.”

Have you been affected by the immigration health requirement? Get in touch at maani.truu@sbs.com.au or at @maanitruu on Twitter.

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