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After months of waiting for the decision of Immigration on the fate of their application for permanent residency visas, OFW worker Emilio Andalan can now now breath a sigh of relief, at least temporarily.
Last May 16, his visa application got their case officer’s thumbs up that he and his family members can remain in Australia as permanent residents.
The case of Emilio Andalan is a showcase of true and unselfish community support. It was also the second time in Western Australia that the Filipino bayanihan spirit succeeded when put to test in exactly, albeit perhaps coincidentally, similar circumstances.
Emilio is a heavy diesel fitter who arrived in Australia in 2008 on s457 visa to work in Western Australia under the state’s Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme.
Two years after arrival, his wife Rowena and two children Roselle and Adrian joined him through a family extension visa. In August 2011 Emilio lodged their application to remain permanently in Australia.
Last December, the Commonwealth Medical Officer (CMO) issued an assessment that Emilio’s wife, Rowena, did not meet Immigration’s health requirements as she was diagnosed with metastic breast cancer. The likelihood of her application being denied was consequently very high.
The CMO wrote, “A person with such a disease or condition would be likely to require health care or community services… and provision of such health care or community services relating to the disease would be likely to result in a significant cost to the Australian community,” adding that the cost to the Australian community is $80,000.
The fear of undergoing the same fate of Filipino GP Dr Cesar Sofocado rang alarm bells in Emilio’s mind.
It was not too long ago when Dr Sofocado, also on a Western Australia RSMS visa and working in the countryside as a medical practitioner, was advised by immigration officers that for his application to be approved, he had to divorce his wife who was terminally ill with breast cancer. When divorced, Dr Sofocado’s wife would be devoid of an Australian visa and therefore had to return to the Philippines, thus allowing Dr Sofocado and their two daughters to remain in Australia.
Dr Sofocado however opted to uphold family values ~ to remain true and loyal to his wife ~ and he fought his case which reached national proportions with media support. Immigration Minister Bowen interceded and granted the Sofocados permanent residency visas based on compassionate grounds. Sadly, Dr Sofocado’s wife, Mary, passed away last December, about eight months after receiving their PR visas.
Afraid that the same treatment would apply to their case, Emilio sought the help of Migrante, other Filipino Australian community groups, and Dr Cesar Sofocado who referred him to The Filipino Australian.
Migrante last March 28 petitioned Immigration Minister Chris Bowen pleading that Emilio and his family be granted permanent residency based on compassionate grounds. Other community groups also supported Emilio’s petition.
For more than a month, Emilio and family members waited.
Early this month, Emilio received advice from Minister Bowen’s office that no ministerial action could be taken since no decision had yet been made by the attending immigration case officer.
Last May 15, Emilio received a call from his case officer that his PR visa application was approved. The following day, Emilio went to the DIAC WA Permanent Skilled Entry Branch to obtain formal notification of his application’s approval.
“You have been granted a Regional Sponsored Migration Scheme (Class BW, Subclass 857) visa. This allows you to remain in Australia permanently. In addition, it includes a travel facility which allows the holder to travel in and out of Australia as a permanent resident for a period of five years from the date it was granted,” the DIAC letter stated.
The approval covers himself, his wife Rowena and their two children, Roselle, 17, and Adrian, 15.
Prior to receipt of DIAC’s advice, Migrante-Perth chairperson and Filipino Community Council of Western Australia secretary Carmelita Baltazar emailed this website that Migrante, FCCWA, and other WA Filipino community groups were organising a “Candle Light Vigil” rally in front of the Immigration’s West Perth Office.
The organising community groups called off the vigil rally, scheduled for last Tuesday 22 May, when the DIAC notification arrived last May 16. In lieu of the vigil rally, community groups have organised a thanksgiving mass to be held on Sunday, June 3 at the St. Joachim’s church, Victoria Park.
“Migrante and the Council will send appreciation letters to Sen Cash, Sen Pratt, Sen Eggleston and MP Randall for their compassion and letters of support for Mr Andalan,” Ms Baltazar said.
“The campaign for the rights and welfare of migrants is bringing our community together. The campaign which originated in Perth has raised the profile of the Filipino community in Australia. We expect more arrivals of Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) to fill the skills shortage resulting from the mining boom in the West. This phenomenon will need stronger Filipino community advocacy and networking,” Ms Baltazar added.
Emilio rang The Filipino Australian last Wednesday May 16 to convey his thanks to all TFA readers, members and supporters, and to everyone who supported them with their petition to remain in Australia.
He also said that during the duration of Australian winter Rowena would be staying in the Philippines.
This writer also saw Dr Sofocado’s postings in his Facebook wall giving updates on the Andalan’s case. In addition to Emilio Andalan, Dr Sofocado has also helped the PR visa petitions of other overseas workers. At least one medical practitioner from overseas, also working in countryside Western Australia and whose child had serious medical condition when they lodged their PR applications, had also received approval to remain in Australia.