A man who has lived in Australia for three years has revealed his heartbreak at being denied a permit to visit his dying father in Colombia by Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton’s office.
The Sydney-based Dutch citizen was not granted an exemption to the rules of his temporary Bridging Visa E by Mr Dutton and ended up watching his dad’s funeral in Colombia via Skype.
Jean Franco Vilaro Campos shared his story with Yahoo7 in the midst of Peter Dutton coming under fire this week over allegations he stepped in to help two European au pairs stay in Australia.
Mr Vilaro (or Mr Campos as he was referred to by Mr Dutton’s office) moved to Sydney for an “adventure” in June 2015 and was put on a temporary Bridging Visa E, which restricted him from re-entering the country if he was to leave during the processing period of 27 months.
But in August of last year, Mr Vilaro was told his father Salvador in South America was gravely ill after suffering a haemorrhagic stroke and that his final wish was to see his son one last time.
Through a contact in former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull’s office, he was able to get a message to Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to plead for a two-week compassionate permit to say goodbye to his dad.
“Our application was denied within 24 hours and my father passed away on September 1 ,” Mr Vilaro told Yahoo7.
“I attended his funeral over Skype. It was the most horrible and harrowing situation I’ve ever had in my entire life.”
He could have chosen to travel to Colombia and broken the terms of his visa, but would have not been able to return to Sydney unless he applied for another visa while outside of the country.
“My dad told me: ‘I do want to see you, that’s my last wish, but don’t do anything you might regret’,” he said.
“It was the most difficult decision I’ve ever made.”
A letter addressed to Malcolm Turnbull from Mr Dutton explains that his office “acknowledges Mr Campos’s difficult circumstances,” before denying the request.
“You have asked that I consider an arrangement whereby Mr Campos could travel to Colombia to visit his father without compromising his ability to return to Australia,” the letter, signed by Mr Dutton, read.
“My powers to intervene in migration matters are limited under the Migration Act 1958, and, unfortunately, these powers do not enable me to lift the restriction which prevents Mr Campos from applying for a further visa onshore.”
“Mr Campos may, however, apply for a visa to return to Australia from offshore, and in light of the restrictions attached to his current visa, and his need to travel imminently, this is his only option.”
Mr Vilaro was originally on a student visa, and applied for a same-sex partner visa after registering his relationship with Robert Wills in 2017.
After a suggestion from his school, Mr Vilaro cancelled his student visa and was placed on the Bridging Visa E “without realising the implications”.
The BVE is a temporary visa allowing the holder to stay in Australia lawfully while waiting on an immigration decision or finalising a matter. The holder is not allowed to re-enter Australia once leaving.
Three months after his father passed away the couple were granted the partner visa.
Visa applicant says he was discriminated against
Mr Vilaro said he believes he was discriminated against for being in a same-sex couple.
“Last year was all the debate about same sex marriage and this all happened at the same time,” he said.
A spokesperson for the Department of Home Affairs said it “does not comment on individual cases” and “does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion or sexual preference”.
“Same-sex relationships are recognised within the Migration Regulations for the purpose of applying for a Partner visa and are assessed against the same criteria as heterosexual relationships,” the statement said.
“The Minister’s power to intervene in migration matters is non-compellable and he is under no obligation to exercise, or to consider exercising this power.”
Mr Vilaro was eventually able to travel to Colombia to visit his father’s grave and last week marked one year since his passing.
“It’s hard to believe my dad is not there anymore. I go to call him all the time,” he said.
“Being able to say goodbye to him would have helped to have closure.”
Dutton claims au pair allegation based on fabricated evidence
Mr Vilaro’s claim comes as the Home Affairs Minister was accused of intervening to ensure a favourable immigration outcome for two European au pairs .
In November, 2015 a French au pair was given a tourist visa by Mr Dutton after AFL boss Gillon McLachlan, whose cousin employed the nanny, asked a member of his staff to speak to the minister’s office.
Since that news broke, former Australian Border Force boss Roman Quaedvlieg gave evidence to a Senate committee alleging Mr Dutton’s chief of staff Craig Maclachlan called him asking for help in June 2015.
“He told me that the minister’s friend, who he referred to as ‘the boss’s mate in Brisbane’, had encountered a problem with his prospective au pair who had been detained,” Mr Quaedvlieg wrote in a letter to a Senate committee on Wednesday night.
Mr Dutton said Mr Quaedvlieg’s claims are fabricated and baseless.