Temporary visa holders in Australia are urging the federal government to expand travel exemptions to include them.
As of June 6, Australian citizens can apply for a travel exemption to bring their children back to India in Australia.
The exemptions allow Australian parents to travel to India to pick up the child, or an adult guardian to accompany the child to Australia from India.
Temporary visa holder and accountant Sangeeta, who only wants to be known by first name, says she and her husband have been separated from their son in India for 18 months due to travel restrictions.
Thirty-one weeks pregnant, Sangeeta is expecting her second child on September 5.
She told SBS News that parting with her son, Angad, has been difficult.
“There are a lot of things going on in your head at the same time. We have to go to work.
“We have to manage the doctor’s appointment right now (with) my (pregnancy) situation. We both (my husband and I) have to work hard. And on top of that – when your family is not with it. you – everything is More difficult. “
Sangeeta and her husband, Amit Saini, have been in Australia for four years. Five months ago they moved from Sydney to Darwin.
Other than Amit Saini’s brother in Sydney, the couple have no family in Australia.
“Emotionally, you want your family to be here with you. “
The last time the couple saw their son was for his seventh birthday when the family visited the Punjab on January 19, 2020.
Travel restrictions prevented her from returning to Australia with her grandparents.
“Don’t ask about the mental health impacts. We’re alone here and I miss him every day. I take the time – midnight here or early in the morning, whenever he’s available to talk to me. not talking, I can see it (on video call).
“And it’s a very difficult and painful situation for us not to see him in person.”
She said she would like the process to begin so that she can start planning to find her son.
“I understand there is a backlog (of people requesting exemptions), but if we (temporary visa holders) could have more certainty on the way forward, that would provide some comfort.”
“This is not a fair deal for everyone. If the government grants exemptions for some people, then give exemptions for others in the same situation. If not, stop giving exemptions for everyone. “
Neha Sandu has helped moderate social media groups joined by other Indian parents in Australia seeking to reconnect with their children in India.
She said too many families – including those on temporary visas – had unsuccessfully requested for months travel exemptions to bring their children from India to Australia.
“Some of the temporary visa holders have received a rejection of their application for no reason.
“They don’t know whether to reapply or wait.
“There are so many families in distress, there should be a clear policy and path for families – including temporary visa holders – to apply for exemptions.”
Ms Sandu said she was aware of between 30 and 35 children who returned to Australia from India after travel exemptions were granted.
“It is very disappointing. Whether the visa status is citizen, permanent resident or temporary resident – the emotions of the parent are the same.
“And it’s the same problem for temporary visa holders as well. They live here. They work here. So they need their children to be reunited with them.”
During Senate estimates in June, it was revealed that at least 209 Australian children were stranded in India.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said it was working with families to secure the return of “vulnerable Australians,” adding that each case is being looked at individually.
“DFAT’s highest priority right now is helping vulnerable Australians abroad.
“DFAT works with families in India and Australia to make sure children’s travel is safe. Each family is assisted on a case-by-case basis.
Nearly 22,600 Australians have returned from India since March 2020, with 8,000 assisted on 50 government-facilitated flights.