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"In 18 days I'm going to lose my friend, Phil. Please, help us."

Hello there.

Let me introduce you to my friend, Phil.

When talking about Phil, I could tell you his highlight reel. I could tell you he was School Captain; he left school with an OP 1 (which for non-Queenslanders, that’s the darn smartest you can get), he was offered a scholarship to our leading University and is now involved with a bunch of different not-for-profits and charities.

But, Phil is more deserving than his academic and professional highlight reel.

To understand Phil, you have to know who he is and the power of his friendship. That is far more worthy.

peter dutton deportation

This if my friend, Phil. Image: supplied.

So this is what you should know:

Phil is a visionary. A visionary that the world we live in can be better than the one it was today. Phil is that person who functions purely on sincerity.

He abandons the vicious cycle of our generation only to do something hoping for another thing in return. Rather, he operates on the belief that it is simply the right thing to do.

Phil is that person who after talking with him, he leaves you feeling like everything will be okay. And please believe me I know how cliché this all sounds, but the truth can be clichéd sometimes.

My friend Phil is going to be deported in 18 days.

He is 21. His sister, Amy, is 19. On November 2nd, the Australian Government will essentially be legally forcing them to South Korea.

In 18 days, I lose Phil. The rest of Phil’s friends lose Phil. Australia loses Phil. And Amy, too.

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peter dutton deportation

Phil and Amy at her graduation. Image: supplied.

I suppose you’re wondering why.

That’s a darn good question, which we’re all still trying to answer.

I will try and keep my response as succinct as possible.

In 1995, Phil Choi was born, and with his parents, they moved to Australia on student visas. Then, in 1997, Amy was born on the Gold Coast. Between 1998 and 2005, the family went to South Korea but move back home to Australia on a Business Visa. In 2009, they applied for a permanent residency. By the following year, their application was denied.

After a review process that lasted till 2012, they requested Ministerial Intervention to Minister Bowen on the basis of Amy and Phil’s exceptional integration to Australia. Within a few months, the Minister was changed. That Minister considers granting them the permanent residency visa they are desperately fighting for, subject to health, character and police checks. Five months later, the Australian Labor Party dumps Julia Gillard as their leader and so the Minister is once again changed.

Three months later, the Minister was swapped when the Coalition were elected into Government. Assisting Scott Morrison as Minister was Michaelia Cash.

Just over a year later, the Minister was changed to Peter Dutton.

Minister Dutton is now the one person who can help them. Image via Facebook.

By now we are in December of 2014.

In that two year period, they dealt with five new Immigration Ministers. Five. Let alone the endless staff turnarounds, new Assistant Ministers, and every single time – beginning again with someone.

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In June 2015, instead of the permanent residency they were originally assessed for way back in 2013, they were granted a six-month Visitor visa. Again, you may be wondering why? The Choi family were being punished, and yet they are the ones who have followed all due processes only to be shaken off as someone else’s responsibility with every ministerial change.

Assistant Minister Michaelia Cash said that it was in the “public interest” to only have them stay for six months.

They didn’t hear from the Assistant Minister again for another few months, but by then she switched portfolios with Malcolm Turnbull becoming Prime Minister.

This is what she wrote to my friend Phil:

“…it was in the public interest to grant a Visitor (subclass 600) visa because it is a reflection of Australia as a compassionate and humane society to allow the family to remain temporarily in Australia.”

Don’t you find that funny?

phillip and amy choi

Phil and Amy as kids. Image: supplied.

The government are so kind to let the Chois stay another six months, but unless they pay $40,000 per year for a student visa or marry an Australian citizen for a partner visa, they must leave.

That’s the definition of “compassionate and humane”, right?

Phil appeals again to Minister Dutton, and they receive a response much the same as the first, that Assistant Minister Michaelia Cash had already exhausted all options (which she had), but reiterated their deportation was in the public interest.

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To show that it was in fact not in the public interest to deport Phil and his sister, Amy, they start a petition. A petition that attracts almost 30,000 signatures from the Australian public who seem to have a very different opinion to the Government.

From December 2015 to October 2016, they have stayed in the country on an assortment of temporary, lawful options. Whether it is bridging visas or reviews, they have managed to stay.

But, on October 5th, they received their final option from the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. This granted the Minister a second opportunity to intervene and let them stay or the Chois must leave Australia in 28 days.

I, now only, have 18 days to save them.

Phil has a great way to describe the situation they are in.

peter dutton deportation

Phil with friends. Image: supplied.

“You are waiting in front of a door,” he says. “Between you and the door is a doorkeeper [that’s the Minister].”

“The doorkeeper tells you that you will be allowed through once you pass the relevant health and police checks. You pass these checks without issues, and you wait for the doorkeeper to let you pass.

“Months pass. Suddenly, the doorkeeper is fired and replaced by someone new. You continue to wait with bated breath to be let through the door. Any moment now…

“Many more months pass. The doorkeeper is replaced again. But this time, he’s from a rival company. The company who has agreed to let you through the door has been kicked out.”

The story goes on and on, but this is how it ends.

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“You are told you have 28 days to leave. But you have one last chance to tell the doorkeeper why you should be let through.

“You bring together everything and everyone you know, and tell your story.”

So, this is me, Abby Ballard, telling Phillip Choi’s story.

peter dutton deportation

Don't let Phil go. Image: supplied.

Phil would have loved to tell you directly, but he is, unfortunately, spending his time writing an application begging to stay in our country.

The question is, what can we do to help?

Phil urges you to write a letter to the Minister. Or you can send your letter of support to Phil directly. You could also write to your local Member of Parliament.

I also understand that doing all those things requires time, and that’s something we are not always abundant with. So, I urge something different. Share this story. Share it directly on the Facebook and other social media pages of your MPs. Don’t stop telling the Choi Story in public.

You don’t have to share just this one, but there is other coverage here, here, here, here, here and here.

I beg you, as Phil’s friend, as a journalist, and as a citizen of this country, to not let them go.

Please Minister Dutton, I don’t want to say goodbye to Phil in 18 days.

If you want to know more information about what you can send to the Minister or send your support to Phil, join the Facebook page here

Editor's note: The Minister's office have provided comment to the ABC stating that the six months provided to the family last year was enough time for them to apply for substantive visas, and they have not. 

Phil Choi says he only has two options, which is to pay for a Student Visa at $40,000 per year or marry an Australian citizen, for a Partner Visa, which he is not prepared to do. However, neither of the visas provide options for Phil's parents to remain in Australia.