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Family fears being 'torn apart' in 8-year battle to keep daughter in Australia: 'Heartbreaking'

The 16-year-old's stepdad detailed how 'heartbreaking' the whole process has been.

A woman who lost both her mother and sister to Covid-19 fears her family will once again be "torn apart" with her teenage daughter on the verge of being sent back to Indonesia due to Australia's "doomed" immigration system.

Rahayu Tatik Hadi and her Queenslander husband Clinton Woods have spent almost nine years trying to get 16-year-old Drika to live in Australia with them and her two brothers.

"Our application for permanent residency was rejected because her father didn't want her to come originally," Mr Woods told Yahoo News Australia. "So we had to get full custody in Indonesia.

"Then Covid came along and we couldn't do anything during that period of course. Then my wife lost her mum and sister to Covid so my wife got a travel exemption and flew over there as soon as she could to look after my step-daughter as she had no remaining adult family to look after her."

A photo of a family living in Moranbah, Queensland, who are struggling to get permanent residency for their 16-year-old daughter Drika, who may have to return to Indonesia in a months' time without anyone to take care of her. Another photo of Drika with her mum and step-dad.
A family living in Moranbah, Queensland, are struggling to get permanent residency for their 16-year-old daughter Drika, who may have to return to Indonesia in a month's time without anyone to take care of her. Source: Supplied

Wanting to get her to Australia "as quick as possible", they successfully managed to get a 12-month tourist visa with the hopes to then apply for a permanent one.

However their plans were thwarted after realising there was a "no further stay condition", which wouldn't allow them to apply for a substantive visa unless it was a protection visa.

After applying for the condition to be waived, it was rejected – and now they can only anxiously wait until their second request with new reasons is reviewed, with only a month to go until Drika's tourist visa expires and she has to go back to Indonesia.

"It's heartbreaking for all of us," Mr Woods said. "It has taken up the whole of our lives for eight years trying to get all together as a family. It's been draining both emotionally and financially."

No further stay conditions can only be waived if major changes in circumstance have occurred. Such as being unable to travel for medical reasons, death or serious illness of close family, natural disaster, war or civil unrest in the visa holder's home country.

Is immigration law accessible?

Yahoo News Australia spoke to immigration lawyer Artoniss Ehsani who said while it's hard to get visas approved, everything is "thrown out the window when you're not applying for the correct visa and you don't actually meet any of the requirements to extend a visa or apply for another one".

"Immigration are 10 steps ahead, they know when someone has another intention for the reason they're applying for a visa," she said. "So of course you're going to get stuck in the loop of not being able to get help," she said.

However she did empathise that the law can be tough to navigate, especially when "immigration here is not streamlined at all".

"It's not accessible, and it's because they had decades of a liberal government that were so opposed to migration in any form, they've created this system that's doomed from the beginning," Ms Ehsani said. "The actual foundations of immigration law in Australia is rooted in anti-immigration policy and sentiment."

A photo of Rahaya with her daughter Drika (left) and her son (right) who she shares with her husband Clinton.
Rahaya, her daughter Drika (left) and her son (right) who she shares with her husband Clinton. Source: Supplied

Mr Wood's wife, Rahayu Tatik Hadi expressed the massive toll the whole process has taken – especially after having suffered such loss.

"After my sister and mother passed away within a week of each other, I couldn't talk from the trauma. My work had to take me to hospital," she said. "And then I couldn't see my daughter... this is a really bad situation but it didn't touch immigration's heart.

"We just want our daughter to live with her parents."

What are the next steps?

If Drika's no further stay condition is approved, she may be given a bridging visa to apply for permanent residency, however it's unclear if she'll be allowed to do so while still in the country.

If rejected, the family will have to separate again while the 16-year-old's substantive visa is processed in Indonesia.

"My wife will go back there with her and they're just going to have to sit and wait to apply for another visa," Mr Woods said.

"It's going to separate our family again — my son and I will stay here because we're just about to buy our own house. We are trying to make our future in Australia.

"We both work full-time and she'll have to leave her job now in childcare which is a pretty integral part of the community."

Covid has slowed down immigration process

Depending on what visa they choose, the Home Affairs website suggests the process could take up to two years, however Ms Ehsani says "at the moment it's very hard to say".

"With Covid, everything came to a grinding halt with immigration processing," she said. "The last government had a huge backlog of cases, which included refugees with the humanitarian streams and migration streams.

"Only now recently in the past two to four months have things started to slowly come back to life and I've been hearing that in the new budget, they will implement more funding to home affairs so that they can go through this backlog."

Yahoo reached out to Home Affairs, with a spokesperson saying "the Department does not comment on individual cases".

"All non-citizens applying for visas to enter and remain in Australia are considered on an individual basis and against legal requirements set out in Australia’s migration legislation."

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