As Sri Lanka’s economic crisis worsens, Australians are desperate to get family over for ‘a bit of relief’ – By Annika Burgess
For six or 12 months to be granted, the Department of Home Affairs needs to be satisfied that an applicant genuinely intends to stay temporarily in Australia and has sufficient funds to support a longer stay.
Ubaidur Rahmaan Mahmood is “very nervous” about trying to bring his 79-year-old mum to Australia when the weather in Sri Lanka gets cooler.
She is living alone in Kandy, the country’s second-largest city, and is worried about dwindling food supplies.
“She is scared, she’s thinking about food in the future,” Mr Mahmood told the ABC.
“You can only keep rice for one month then it goes bad … and then there’s no cooking gas. They can’t go on just using firewood all the time.”
Mr Mahmood, who has been living in Australia since 1991, has no intention of trying to relocate his family.
He has the finances and accommodation to support family during their visit and wants the assurance they can stay longer than three months as the crisis worsens.
“We have no plan for them to stay longer,” Mr Mahmood said.
Tamil community struggles to be reunited with family
Durga Owen, a Tamil community member and former Labor candidate, said there were Sri Lankans who had struggled to bring family members to Australia for several years.
“If you’re a Tamil person, it’s very hard to come to Australia or bring your family here on a visitor visa,” she told the ABC.
Thousands of Tamil refugees who came to Australia by boat after the alleged genocide in 2009 are still on bridging visas.
They have no way of being reunited with family, Ms Owen said.
“And for the rest of us Tamils who came as refugees and are citizens now, we haven’t been able to bring our families here easily on visitor visas as they are rarely granted,” she said.
“The Australian government thinks that because Tamil people are being oppressed in Sri Lanka, if they come here on a visitor visa they’re likely to apply for a protection visa.”
She said it was not something that was outlined by the government, “it’s just a well-known thing”.
“We have some organisations like temples that have been able to bring in musicians for a particular festival for a couple of weeks, but then they will have to leave straightaway.”
When asked about the difficulties the Tamil community faces in applying for visitor visas, the Department of Home Affairs pointed to the government’s individual assessment process.