It has been nearly 4 years now since a Sri Lankan family started a battle which, at the time, seemed a quick immigration matter. We always knew that the chances were not so good, but never thought it would take the family 4 years to get to this point. They had only been in the country for about 6 months, and hopes were high that they could quickly apply for a protection visa and settle in Australia. Their third child was just born, and a week after that Bro A’s bridging visa was suddenly cancelled. He was taken in to detention, where he still remains.
The process of trying to regain his bridging visa was started. After about a month of several unsuccessful applications, hopes of Bro A ever regaining his bridging visa faded away. All seemed dark for the family, until news that all Sri Lankan refugees who came by boat are to be processed under a fast track resettlement scheme, while other nationalities had to wait up to 8 more years. Hope rekindled once again that the family could now apply for a protection visa under the Refugee Protection scheme. Normally these applications take up to 6 months to process, and the family hoped that within that time they would be reunited and settled in Australia.
Several months later, the Immigration Department reviewed their case and rejected their application for protection, claiming that they are not true refugees. The church and the family’s hopes were shattered. The lawyers who have been assisting them with the application process gave a small glimpse of hope by suggesting that these rejected applications automatically get an independent review. Hopes and prayers revived, looking forward to the date of the review. When the review took place, a relatively short time after the decision to reject the application, with sadness yet again, we learned that the Immigration Assessment Authority had upheld the decision of the Immigration Department, claiming that they were not true refugees.
By this stage, Bro A’s lawyers noticed that both the Immigration and the Immigration Assessment Authority (IAA) had made some errors in the process of assessment. They suggested that the family apply for a judicial review of the decision. This usually happens in a Federal Circuit Court. In order for the family to do this, there was a tremendous amount of money needed to essentially take the Immigration Minister/IAA to court over their respective decisions to reject the family’s application. After enquiring how much money was needed, the figure came back at $10-15,000. There was no way the family or the church could raise that kind of money to pay for the best lawyers available to tackle this very difficult case. After much research, we came across a legal association that takes on very limited cases, on a pro bono (free) basis, and we were given numbers to call to submit their case, and to see if there would be any solicitors/lawyers that would pick up the case and run with it.
Meanwhile there was a 28-day period for any appeals to be lodged. At this stage we had already lost several business days researching. At the last minute, we had been given an indication that there was a lawyer and a barrister that would be interested in running the case for a judicial review. It turned out to be one of the best barristers in Adelaide, to run such difficult cases; but because they were based in Hong Kong, it made it very difficult to lodge the application for the appeal for review on time. Brief instructions were given to us to lodge the application, with the view that when the barrister and his counsel would be able to read all the necessary documentation relating to the matter, they would be able to amend the application.
On the last day, the appeal was lodged. When the barrister and his counsel officially took up the case, hope revived again. They were able to amend the application, and prepare for the court hearing, which was set to be 9 months away. In the meantime, the barrister’s counsel was forced to resign from the case, leaving them with a barrister, but no solicitor to prepare the documents. An armada of prayers were sent up yet again, to find a solicitor that would also act pro bono, and be competent in such difficult cases. After a short period of time, the original immigration lawyer that assisted the family with the initial application and review volunteered to take the case on. We thank the Lord for all these answers to prayer all along.
Finally, the day came when the court hearing was set, and after a short deliberation, the judge found that the Immigration and the IAA had not made any jurisdictional error. Hopes of the family settling in Australia were shattered again, but only for a short time, as the immigration lawyer and the barrister both indicated that they would appeal the decision free of charge, yet again. This would normally cost the family another $10-15,000.
Again, documents were prepared, the court date was set, and this time there was a full court with 3 judges presiding over the matter. The chance of winning the case was very slim, as it was very technical. When the day came, the three judges asked many, many questions from the barrister of the Immigration Minister, and only a few from the family’s barrister. This gave a little hope that maybe the judges would decide in the family’s favour. Finally, the hearing was over. The handing down of the verdict would be at a later date, possibly even taking up to a year from the date of the hearing.
It took 7 months, and finally the verdict was handed down on the 14th of March 2019. We want to thank the Lord that the final verdict was that the family should have been considered as refugees; therefore, they were granted another opportunity to reapply for a protection visa. Given the comments of the full court, we are now almost certain that the family can apply for a protection visa and be granted one. This process should take 3-4 weeks, but finally, after almost 4 years, the family should be reunited again.
We want to ask you all to please continue praying for the family, as they face this last hurdle of the journey to settle in Australia. They have plans that their two youngest children be dedicated as soon as Bro A is released from detention, followed by final baptismal classes and the baptism of Bro A and his wife. We thank the Lord, that even through difficult times, He gives us strength and faith to keep looking up, as He has promised He will never leave us nor forsake us.