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A 34-year-old Indian national is facing the ominous prospect of never being able to see his daughter again as he has been asked to leave Australia by Friday.
Sanjeev Kumar has waited for over 30 months for the outcome of his application for a special ministerial intervention. Earlier this month, he was told it wouldn't be in “public interest” to let him stay in Australia.
Mr Kumar faces a three-year ban on applying for an Australian visa because of irregularity in the documentation at the time of applying for an earlier visa.
"After my student visa ran out and I started a relationship [with my partner], I applied for 2-3 different visas. There must have been something wrong a document at that time," he says. Mr Kumar has also incurred a $13,000 in Commonwealth debt while fighting court cases against the Immigration Department.
“My circumstances are very clear to them [Immigration]. Though they say I can apply for a visa after three years, I know if I leave now, I will never be able to come back here and see my daughter.”
An electronics and communication engineer, Mr Kumar came to Australia in 2008 as a student to study graphic design. He dropped out of the course after completing the first year of the 2-year diploma. He says he was prepared to return to India after his visa ran out, but started a relationship with a single mother.
“I was certain about returning to India but then my partner got pregnant and she applied for a ministerial intervention to grant me a permanent residency,” Mr Kumar tells SBS Punjabi.
The application for intervention was accepted, but Mr Kumar says with no work rights and the constant pressure of supplying document after document in addition to visiting the Immigration office with his daughter every week caused his relationship to collapse, leaving him homeless and without any family support.
“I could cope with being homeless and sleeping rough in Adelaide parklands. But the most difficult part of it was the separation from my daughter,” he says.
Mr Kumar says since he did not have a legal authority to see his daughter, this weighed in on the Immigration decision as well.
Later, the court allowed him to visit his daughter once a week.
Mr Kumar’s bridging visa runs out on Friday and Immigration has asked him to book a ticket to India otherwise, he would be deported. Mr Kumar says the decision is cruel and he would never be able to see his daughter again if he were forced to return to India.
“I have complied with all their demands, I have supplied them all the documents, haven’t broken any rules and waited for thirty months for my application. And now out the blue, they tell me I can’t live here,” he says.
“They could have thrown me out when my daughter wasn’t born. Now that she is growing up and her attachment with me is growing, it will be inhuman to snatch her from me.”
According to the Department of Home Affairs, after someone's visa has expired while they are in Australia, they are expected to depart. If they continue to stay, they become "unlawful non-citizen" and are liable to be deported, which may attract a ban on returning to Australia for three years.
He hasn’t booked a ticket yet in the hope of getting a last-minute relief as his lawyer prepares to make a final appeal.
“This is one of the very worst cases I have dealt with and the department has added to this terrible situation,” Lawyer Abby Hamdan told The Advertiser.
“Waiting 30 months to give a decision caused enormous stress for the couple and all the time Sanjeev couldn’t work. I can’t believe the Minister won’t want to intervene in this tragic case,” she added.
Mr Kumar has been living at an accommodation provided by the Adelaide Day Centre, founded by Sister Janet Mead, in exchange for his work at the centre's organic garden that produces food for the homeless.
The general manager of ADC, Joyce van derSman says Mr Kumar deserves to stay with his daughter in Australia.
"He is an enormous asset to the country. When I first met him, I became aware of his gifts, his wisdom and the outstanding ability to contribute to the society which have been enhanced by the adversity he faced in this country," she tells SBS Punjabi.
Ms Joyce says it would be a "tragedy" to lose Mr Kumar and "grossly unjust to the human rights" of his young daughter.
This case has been comprehensively assessed by the Department, the Assistant Minister and the Administrative Appeals Tribunal.
The Department of Home Affairs said Mr Kumar's case had been "comprehensively assessed".
"Ministerial Intervention is not an extension of the visa process. A person who has been refused a visa and has unsuccessfully sought merits review is able to write to the Assistant Minister and request intervention, however, the Assistant Minister cannot be compelled to exercise his powers and he is not required to explain his decisions on any case," a department spokesperson told SBS Punjabi. "What is or is not in the public interest is entirely a matter for the Assistant Minister considering each case on its own merits."
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