A Brisbane family faces the agony of being forcibly split up with a single mother being deported while her eight year old son must remain in Australia with his father who has not permitted the boy to travel.
The mother, Bernadette Romulo, shares custody of the boy with his father, but has been his primary carer since birth, with the father looking after the boy every second weekend and in the school holidays.
Despite having lived in Australia for 11 years, preparations are being made for the mother being deported to the Philippines within days, together with her two daughters aged 12 and 13 from her previous relationship. The trio’s bridging visas are set to expire on Tuesday.
The mother’s application for permanent residency was rejected several years ago and her most recent bid to apply for ministerial intervention has also failed.
Ms Romulo first came to the country in 2006 with her husband and daughters as dependents on her then-husband’s skilled 457 visa. The marriage broke down, and the couple separated. She began a new relationship with the boy’s father, and since this relationship ended she has shared joint custody of the boy, who is an Australian citizen.
The mother is understandably distressed at her family’s predicament, but it’s the effect on the children involved that is truly tragic and underscores the trauma that is caused when relationships break down in circumstances such as these. The young boy, who is under the care of a psychologist, is said to cry himself to sleep and be suffering nightmares. His half-sisters, who will have to leave Australia with their mother being deported, are also traumatised by the situation, having never lived elsewhere, being unable to speak the language in the Philippines, and worst of all, facing the prospect of having to leave their little brother behind.
The mother has a lawyer working her case pro bono. He hopes that despite the Assistant Minister for the Department of Immigration and Border Protection, Alex Hawke, having rejected the application for ministerial intervention on the grounds of extraordinary circumstances, Minister Peter Dutton may still intervene. The lawyer said:
“It’s in Australia’s interests that we keep Australian families together. That we don’t rip apart a mother and her child. This is why the minister has these powers.”
However, a spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said Ms Romulo’s case “had already been comprehensively assessed” by the Department and the Assistant Minister. A statement released by the Department goes on to explain:
“Ministerial Intervention is not an extension of the visa process. The Assistant Minister cannot be compelled to exercise his powers and he is not required to explain his decisions on any case. What is or is not in the public interest is entirely a matter for the Assistant Minister considering each case on its own merits.”
“The Assistant Minister only intervenes in a relatively small number of cases which present unique and exceptional circumstances. People whose requests for intervention have been unsuccessful and who do not have other matters before the Department are expected to depart Australia.”
With the mother’s permanent residency applications unsuccessful, her only other avenue is to pursue custody arrangements with the father through the Australian legal system. As the Department’s spokesperson noted, “Child custody matters are beyond the scope of this Department and are addressed through the appropriate jurisdiction of family law.”
Unfortunately, one of the complications of this heartbreaking situation appears to be that the Philippines is not a signatory country to the Hague Convention, meaning the Australian father would risk being unable to enforce Australian orders relating to the boy, should he be allowed to move overseas with his mother being deported. For this reason, we feel it’s likely the father has been given legal advice not to permit the move.
Source: 9 News
Do you need advice in relation to a parenting or other family law matter? Please contact Canberra family lawyer Cristina Huesch or one of our experienced solicitors here at Alliance Legal Services on (02) 6223 2400.
Please note our blogs are not legal advice. For information on how to obtain the correct legal advice, please contact Alliance Legal Services.