Let me tell you the stories of Phillip and Amy Choi.
Phillip is 20 years old. His sister Amy is 18, and she was born on the Gold Coast. They have lived in Australia for the past 13 and 11 years, respectively.
The siblings both graduated with OP 1s (for all non-Queenslanders out there: that’s as smart as you can get). Phillip was offered an academic scholarship to study at the University of Queensland and he was school captain of his high school. They both are regular volunteers with non-profit organisations.
In other words, Phillip and Amy are model Australians. They deserve gold stars or some fabulous medal.
Instead, they face deportation in 22 days.
It’s a long and complicated story to how Phillip and Amy ended up in this situation.
As I said, Amy was born on the Gold Coast in 1997. In 1998, the family moved to South Korea until 2005, eventually returning to Australia on a Business visa.
In 2009, the family applied for permanent residency in Australia, and by March the following year, their application for this visa was refused. The Migration Review Tribunal proceeded to affirm this decision in 2012.
By April of the same year, the Choi family lodged a Ministerial Intervention request to the then Immigration Minister, Chris Bowen “on the basis that Amy and Phil had integrated so well into Australia” and it’s where they called home.
Watch Phillip and Amy Choi’s plea to the current Minister to stay. (Post continues after video.)
By the following year, the minister changed to Brendan O’Connor where he was considering granting the family a permanent residency subject to health, character, police checks and signing the Australian Values Statement.
After two years of waiting, and in the same time the Immigration Minister changing three times, the family finally received a response to their application.
The letter addressed to the family regarding their 2013 assessment for permanent residency in Australia had been, at the very last minute, changed. Instead, they had been ‘granted’ six month visitor visas, expiring on the 22nd December 2015.
After two years of waiting, of a ridiculous number of ministerial changes, of a change of Government, after all that time, they were denied.
There was little reason provided why their application for permanent residency was denied, other that it was in the ‘public interest’.
It was in the ‘public interest’ to essentially deport Phillip and Amy from Australia.
After seeking representation from their local MP, the family eventually heard back from the former assistant minister for Immigration (yet another ministerial change), Michaelia Cash.
Cash wrote to them, “…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.”
Let’s get this straight: Australia is “compassionate” and “humane” enough to let Phillip and Amy stay in Australia for six more months, but not humane enough to let them permanently live here.
The family again made representation to the minister and they received another similar response.
‘It is in the public interest’ for Phillip and Amy to leave our country.
On the 22nd of December last year, the pair applied for an extension of the Visitor visa, which was their only viable option. That application was refused a few days ago, which means they now have until the 15th of February to seek other options or face deportation.
Talking to Mamamia, Phillip confirms there are no legal avenues that can be pursued because the decision of their visas is at the Minister’s discretionary power.
The only person who can solve this is the Minister himself, now Peter Dutton. Despite thousands of emails, phone calls, and an online petition, which has garnered over 9,000 signatures, the Minister has been unresponsive.
Phillip doesn’t know how many other individuals are facing the same treatment as he and his sister are. He doesn’t know how many people who have been living in Australia, who have applied for permanent residency and for illogical reasons been rejected. He doesn’t know the number of individuals who have been voiceless to call out these outright unreasonable and unjust decisions, and have been forced to leave in silence.
He doesn’t know. And, neither do we.
But, we do know Phillip’s story and Phillip doesn’t just want to be another name on Minister Dutton’s desk.
Minister Dutton is the only person who can intervene here. Minister Dutton is the only one who can make the lawful choice to grant Phillip and his sister, Amy, permanent residency in Australia.
We can’t let the story of Phillip and Amy Choi slip by. We can’t turn a blind eye or click away from our screens to solve this. Despite the fact it might be easier to ignore it and distance ourselves from Phillip and Amy, we can’t.
Phillip and Amy aren’t just names anymore; they are people. People with amazing stories, incredible creativity, intelligence and passion, and family and friends who they love so deeply.
It’s in the public interest they stay. It’s in the interest of our nation they live here, because if they leave, we will be poorer for it.
We would not only have lost all they to give to our country, but we would have lost our will to fight for what is right.
This is right and we must act in our greatest capacity to make sure they stay. We must.
Phillip and Amy have been fundamentally failed to be provided with a secure future and any form of a reasonable explanation.
We can’t let Minister Dutton ignore Phillip and Amy anymore. We can’t let them be failed any longer.
And from the bottom of their hearts, Phillip and Amy say thank you.
To help them, you can sign their change.org petition here or you can contact Minister Dutton directly through these channels:
Parliament House Ministerial Office:
Minister for Immigration and Border Protection
Ministerial Wing, Ground Floor,
Parliament House Canberra ACT 2600
Phone Number: (02) 6277 7860