There has been some media attention in Australia regarding the compelling story of Mrs Jefferson, the 96-year-old British citizen, who was refused permission to reside in Australian on the basis of dependency on her Australian citizen family members. A Deportation Order is thus threatened against her. Mrs Jefferson’s age, medical circumstances and her strong family connections to Australia, including Australian great grandchildren, made for a very strong case for residence on the basis of dependency. Furthermore, the family are fully financially self sufficient and posed no risks of financial burden on the Australian State. Despite these many factors in her favour, last week the Australian Immigration Department refused her pending Contributory Parent Visa. This type of visa allows parents to join their children in Australia provided they can support themselves. The decision has caused much controversy in the Australian media, and the Immigration Minister, Mr Chris Bowan, has made public statements to indicated that his Department would work towards finding an avenue which might allow Mrs Jefferson to stay with her family in Australia.
It would seem to any reasonable person that the facts of Mrs Jefferson’s case are so compelling that permission to reside should have been automatic. However, this has not been the case in respect of the Australian Immigration rules, which are notoriously restrictive. By way of comparison, the UK Immigration Rules explicitly provide for “indefinite leave to enter and remain” for persons in Mrs Jefferson’s situation, i.e. those who are over the age of 65, are wholly or mainly dependant on the British citizen, financially self sufficient and without close relatives in home country for support.
By way of further comparison, the Irish State’s current position in respect of the right to reside for dependant parents of Irish citizens is restrictive in the extreme – there is no visa or residence permission in existence for dependant parents of Irish citizens because the State argues that such right does not exist. This point is the subject of High Court proceedings taken by Brophy Solicitors on behalf of a South African elderly married couple, dependant on their Irish citizen daughter and family. The family are in a good financial position, and as in Mrs Jefferson’s case, there is no risk of our clients becoming a burden on the State. We strongly believe that the Department of Justice’s continued refusal to grant this couple a right to reside is out of line with International Immigration law and policies, and in disregard of the special protections afforded by the Irish Constitution to the family unit. The substantive High Court hearing of this case is scheduled for October next.